The Ethics of Care

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GNA Garcia recommended the inclusion of “Care Ethics” to our readings and other supplements for the Ethics unit. Following from the link she shared on Twitter, the Ethics of Care refers to:

The moral theory known as “ the ethics of care” implies that there is moral significance in the fundamental elements of relationships and dependencies in human life. Normatively, care ethics seeks to maintain relationships by contextualizing and promoting the well-being of care-givers and care-receivers in a network of social relations. Most often defined as a practice or virtue rather than a theory as such, “care” involves maintaining the world of, and meeting the needs of, ourself and others. It builds on the motivation to care for those who are dependent and vulnerable, and it is inspired by both memories of being cared for and the idealizations of self. Following in the sentimentalist tradition of moral theory, care ethics affirms the importance of caring motivation, emotion and the body in moral deliberation, as well as reasoning from particulars.

Aside from the many Global Issues or Me-to-We club members taking up the study of Philosophy at our school this semester, I think there is something to this notion of ‘care’ within social constructivism, where each of us bears a responsibility to ‘maintain the world of, and meet the needs of, ourself and others.’ Isn’t this at the heart of learning through dialogue, through sharing our thoughts and vulnerabilities toward the betterment of ourselves and our societies?

The resource linked above introduces not only a great deal of thinking about care ethics, but a host of other peer-reviewed philosophical thinking, and I hope you find it useful during our upcoming study and dialogue about ethics. My own interest is piqued by the end line of the introduction, which states that the ethics of care was “originally conceived as most appropriate to the private and intimate spheres of life, care ethics has branched out as a political theory and social movement aimed at broader understanding of, and public support for, care-giving activities in their breadth and variety.”

Personally, the study of philosophy and ethics has always led me toward a reckoning with their manifestations in building a just society, and maintaining a functioning political structure. Rhetorically, the first strides of my own syllogism works out something like this:

        • What is all of this thinking for if it is not to help us light the way toward a better world?  
        • And how do we go about creating this better world without the structures of our existing democracies? 

An article that I wanted to share at some point during this unit, but which seems to find its place here, looks at Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a form of Applied Ethics:

I suggest the Supreme Court is using the Charter to implement ethics at an individual case level, while keeping the law intact at the general level […] much as the old courts of equity did. When the King’s courts’ strict application of the common law caused unconscionable outcomes for unsuccessful litigants, equity, as the “court of conscience,” acted in personam to prohibit victorious parties from enforcing their judgments. It put a “gloss on the common law.” Although operating in a very different way legally, the Charter can be viewed as allowing 21st-century judges to realize similar goals.

Long the bane of conservative thinkers who see the Charter as an untenable step toward liberal social engineering, the Charter seems uniquely poised to confront the future of globalized democracy. Writing in the Harvard Law Review, Israel’s former president of its Supreme Court argued that “Canadian law serves as a source of inspiration for many countries around the world.”

Indeed. A 2011 study of influential constitutional documents found that alongside the waning potency of the American founding documents,

the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.

The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against “such reasonable limits” as “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Those of you chomping at the bit to begin to bridge our work toward the culminating Social & Political Philosophy are humbly invited to beging playing with these ideas, as well as other notable current events that may find their application in politics, but whose origin comes from ethics.