Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology

By Sally E. Talbot | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Understanding Partiality: Problematising Conceptions of Knowledge and Knowing

With the description of care in terms of both action and disposition, it begins to be apparent that the philosophical elaboration of the ethic of care consists less in describing the content of care and more in describing the reason by which care might be informed and constrained. Where care is confined to the meeting of needs for care or, more generally, to care as action, it may be that the sufficient conditions of care can be determined. However, where care is understood to involve not only practical acts of care but also the disposition to care, the sufficient conditions of care are not quantifiable. Here, the evaluation of care involves not a quantitative assessment of needs-meeting but a qualitative assessment of the appropriateness of caring responses in particular relational contexts of caring.

Caring action, I have said, involves choice and deliberation, while care as disposition is understood in terms of an ethical imperative: the "I must" associated with the awareness that I "cannot but" act as one-who-cares. Now, where the concept of reason is inseparable from the stance of the impartial, autonomous self, the claim that the "I must" of care is informed and constrained by reason seems to undermine the association of care with partiality and relation. The presumption of ontological relation, however, suggests the possibility of transforming the concept of impartial reason by which liberal moral thought is informed. In this chapter, I lay the groundwork for developing the concept of partial reason. In Chapters 6 and 7, I show that the implications for both ethics and epistemology of associating rationality with partiality are profound.

As I have said, the focus of my critique of liberal moral philosophy is not primarily on its linking of the moral with the rational. Rather than breaking the nexus between reason and ethics, the objective of my critique is to reveal the limitations imposed on the moral response when reason is restricted to abstract, universal, and impartial thinking. By retaining the nexus between reason and

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Partial Reason: Critical and Constructive Transformations of Ethics and Epistemology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Philosophy ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents VII
  • Preface IX
  • Acknowledgements XI
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • Chapter 1 People Standing Alone: A Critique of Liberal Moral Theory 9
  • Notes 29
  • Chapter 2 a Necessary Corrective? Responses That Fill the Gaps 37
  • Notes 57
  • Chapter 3 Theorising Connection as Primary: Understandings of Selves-In-Relation 63
  • Notes 85
  • Chapter 4 Seeing Together: Care as Disposition 91
  • Notes 113
  • Chapter 5 Understanding Partiality: Problematising Conceptions of Knowledge and Knowing 121
  • Notes 149
  • Chapter 6 Partial Reason: the Epistemological Imperatives of Partiality 157
  • Notes 183
  • Chapter 7 Care: the Ethical Imperatives of Partiality 187
  • Notes 213
  • Bibliography 219
  • Index 231
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