Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


The Ethics of Care

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 8.53.34 AM

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.



Radiolab & other Ethical Supplements


Some Supplemental Reading & Viewing for our Ethics Unit

Radiolab | The Good Show
“The standard view of evolution is that living things are shaped by cold-hearted competition. And there is no doubt that today’s plants and animals carry the genetic legacy of ancestors who fought fiercely to survive and reproduce. But in this hour, we wonder whether there might also be a logic behind sharing, niceness, kindness … or even, self-sacrifice. Is altruism an aberration, or just an elaborate guise for sneaky self-interest? Do we really live in a selfish, dog-eat-dog world? Or has evolution carved out a hidden code that rewards genuine cooperation?”

Radiolab | The Bad Show
“We begin with a chilling statistic: 91% of men, and 84% of women, have fantasized about killing someone. We take a look at one particular fantasy lurking behind these numbers, and wonder what this shadow world might tell us about ourselves and our neighbors. Then, we reconsider what Stanley Milgrim’s famous experiment really revealed about human nature (it’s both better and worse than we thought). Next, we meet a man who scrambles our notions of good and evil: chemist Fritz Haber, who won a Nobel Prize in 1918…around the same time officials in the US were calling him a war criminal. And we end with the story of a man who chased one of the most prolific serial killers in US history, then got a chance to ask him the question that had haunted him for years: why?”

Justice: What’s the Right thing to Do?
Justice is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history, having taught more than 14,000 students over the course of two decades. In this course, Sandel challenges us with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do. He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios. The results are often surprising, revealing that important moral questions are never black and white. This course also addresses the hot topics of our day—affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism and rights—and Sandel shows us that we can revisit familiar controversies with a fresh perspective. Each lecture in this course has two parts as well as related readings and discussion guides.

Thinking Ethically: A Framework for Moral Decision Making (from Santa Clara University)
Dealing with these moral issues is often perplexing. How, exactly, should we think through an ethical issue? What questions should we ask? What factors should we consider?

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
“The IEET’s mission is to be a center for voices arguing for a responsible, constructive, ethical approach to the most powerful emerging technologies. We believe that technological progress can be a catalyst for positive human development so long as we ensure that technologies are safe and equitably distributed. We call this a “technoprogressive” orientation.”



Metaphysics & Epistemology at Oxford

I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly introduce you to the wealth of academic materials found in iTunesU. In case you missed it, for the past few years now, Apple and iTunes have been making class content from some of the world’s best universities available for free. As we make our way through dense philosophical content in a seminar manner, participants in #Philosophy12 may find many of these topics and courses helpful in building a broader knowledge base for themselves and their classmates.

As we are setting out in our study of Metaphysics this week, you may find the lecture from Oxford’s Philosophy for Beginners, “Metaphysics and Epistemology,” helpful in learning some of the topic’s basic principles and vocabulary.

Also potentially of interest:

  • General Philosophy at Oxford – A series of lectures delivered by Peter Millican to first-year philosophy students at the University of Oxford. The lectures comprise the 8-week General Philosophy course and were delivered in late 2009.

  • Philosophy & the Human Situation at the Open University – Philosophy and philosophical enquiries are relevant in some shape or form to many aspects of everyday life, for example our treatment of the environment, the rapidity of today’s technological progress, whether animals should have rights and if so how they should compare to ours. Philosophy also encompasses questions about the existence of God, how life is sustained on earth, and even at what point should the Government intrude on a person’s freedom. This album introduces the study of philosophy and the human situation, and contains talks and debates from leading philosophical thinkers and teachers, past and present. This material forms part of The Open University course A211 Philosophy and the human situation.