Contemporary Elements of an Ethic of Care

In a Different Voice begins by contrasting the primary moral orientation of boys and men with the primary orientation of girls and women. Gilligan proposes that females and males tend to employ different reasoning strategies and apply different moral themes and concepts when formulating and resolving moral problems. According to Gilligan's analysis, females are more likely than males to perceive moral dilemmas primarily in terms of personal attachment versus detachment. From this perspective, which she dubs the care perspective, central concerns are to avoid deserting, hurting, alienating, isolating, or abandoning persons and to act in a manner that strengthens and protects attachments between persons. In this analysis, the moral universe of girls and women tends to be primarily "a world of relationships and psychological truths where an awareness of the connection between people gives rise to a recognition of responsibility for one another, a perception of the need for response" (p. 30). For example, Amy, an eleven-year-old girl whom Gilligan interviews in her book, describes herself in terms of her connection with other people: "I think that the world has a lot of problems, and I think that everybody should try to help somebody else in some way ..." (Gilligan, p. 34).

By contrast, Gilligan argues that the primary moral orientation of men and boys tends to focus on moral concerns related to inequality versus equality of individuals. Rather than emphasizing the importance of sustaining personal relationships, this approach emphasizes abstract ideals of fairness and rights, and requires abiding by impartial principles of justice, autonomy, reciprocity, and respect for persons. Viewed from this perspective, which Gilligan refers to as the justice perspective, moral dilemmas are defined by hierarchical values and impersonal conflicts of claims. The moral agent, like the judge, is called upon to "abstract the moral debate from the interpersonal situation, finding in the logic of fairness an objective way to decide who will win the dispute" (p. 32). To illustrate justice reasoning, Gilligan describes the moral reasoning of Jake, an eleven-year-old boy interviewed for her book. Asked how he would resolve a conflict between responsibility to himself and other people Jake answers, "You go about one-fourth to the others and three-fourths to yourself," and adds that "the most important thing in your decision should be yourself, don't let yourself be guided totally by other people ..." (p. 35-36). Gilligan concludes that Jake understands this moral dilemma as an abstract mathematical equation and perceives his responsibility for others as potentially interfering with his personal autonomy.

Gilligan, a developmental psychologist, argues that an ethic of care has been generally ignored in the past because girls and women have been excluded as subjects in the study of moral development. For example, accounts of moral maturation described by Lawrence Kohlberg (1981, 1984) and Jean Piaget were based entirely on studies and observations of boys and men. These male-based theories of moral psychology, when applied to girls and women, were interpreted as showing girls and women to be deficient in moral development. Gilligan identifies an ethic of care as a distinctive form of moral reasoning.

Keep Your Weight In Check During The Holidays

Keep Your Weight In Check During The Holidays

A time for giving and receiving, getting closer with the ones we love and marking the end of another year and all the eating also. We eat because the food is yummy and plentiful but we don't usually count calories at this time of year. This book will help you do just this.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment