Reading Summary 3 essay

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Feminist Ethics
Feminist approaches to ethics, often known collectively as feminist ethics, are
distinguished by an explicit commitment to correcting male biases they perceive in
traditional ethics, biases that may be manifest in rationalizations of women’s
subordination, or in disregard for, or disparagement of, women’s moral experience.
Feminist ethics, by contrast, begins from the convictions that the subordination of
women is morally wrong and that the moral experience of women is as worthy of
respect as that of men. The practical goals of feminist ethics, then, are the
following: first, to articulate moral critiques of actions and practices that perpetuate
women’s subordination; second, to prescribe morally justifiable ways of resisting
such actions and practices; and, third, to envision morally desirable alternatives that
will promote women’s emancipation. The meta-ethical goal of feminist ethics is to
develop theoretical understandings of the nature of morality that treat women’s
moral experience respectfully, though never uncritically.
Just as feminist ethics may be identified by its explicit commitment to
challenging perceived male bias in ethics, so approaches that do not express such a
commitment may be characterized as nonfeminist. Nonfeminist approaches to
ethics are not necessarily anti-feminist or male-biased; they may or may not be so.
The history of western philosophy includes a number of isolated but indisputable
instances of moral opposition to women’s subordination. Noteworthy examples are
Mary Wollstonecraft’s (1759–1797) A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792),
John Stuart Mill’s (1806–1873) The Subjection of Women (1869), Frederick
Engels’ (1820–1895) The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
(1884), and Simone de Beauvoir’s (1908–1986) The Second Sex (1949).
In the late 1960s, however, as part of a general resurgence of feminist activism,
an unprecedented explosion of feminist ethical debate occurred, first among the
general public, soon in academic discourse. Actions and practices whose gendered
dimensions hitherto either had been unnoticed or unchallenged now became foci of
public and philosophical attention, as feminists subjected them to outspoken moral
critique, developed sometimes dramatic strategies for opposing them, and proposed
alternatives that nonfeminists often perceived as dangerously radical. First
grassroots and soon academic feminist perspectives were articulated on topics such
as abortion, equality of opportunity, domestic labor, portrayals of women in the
media, and a variety of issues concerning sexuality, such as rape and compulsory
heterosexuality. A little later, feminists displayed increasing ethical concern about
pornography, reproductive technology, so-called surrogate motherhood, militarism,
the environment and the situation of women in developing nations.
Despite the long history of feminist ethical debate, the term “feminist ethics”
itself did not come into general use until the late 1970s or early 1980s. At this time,
a number of feminists began expressing doubts about the possibility of fruitfully
addressing so-called women’s issues in terms of the conceptual apparatus supplied
by traditional ethical theory. For instance, a rights framework was alleged by some
to distort discussions of abortion insofar as it constructed pregnancy and
motherhood as adversarial situations. Other feminists charged that certain
assumptions widely accepted by traditional ethical theory were incompatible with
what was now beginning to be claimed as a distinctively feminine moral
experience or sensibility. Contract theory, for instance, was criticized for
postulating a conception of human individuals as free, equal, independent and
mutually disinterested, a conception claimed by some to be contrary to the moral
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y p y y
experience of most women. Even the requirement of impartiality, usually taken as a
defining feature of morality, became the object of feminist criticism insofar as it
was alleged to generate prescriptions counter to many women’s moral intuitions.
Some feminists began to speculate that traditional ethics was more deeply malebiased and needed more fundamental rethinking than they had realized hitherto.
Such speculations were fuelled by the much-publicized work of developmental
psychologist Carol Gilligan, whose 1982 book, In a Different Voice: Psychological
Theory and Women’s Development, seemed to demonstrate empirically that the
moral development of women was significantly different from that of men.
Claiming that females tend to fear separation or abandonment while males, by
contrast, tend to perceive closeness as dangerous, Gilligan reported that girls and
women often construe moral dilemmas as conflicts of responsibilities rather than of
rights and seek to resolve those dilemmas in ways that will repair and strengthen
webs of relationship. Furthermore, Gilligan described females as supposedly less
likely than males to make or justify moral decisions by the application of abstract
moral rules; instead, she claimed girls and women were more likely to act on their
feelings of love and compassion for particular individuals. Gilligan concluded that
whereas men typically adhere to a morality of justice, whose primary values are
fairness and equality, women often adhere to a morality of care, whose primary
values are inclusion and protection from harm. For this reason, studies of moral
development based exclusively on a morality of justice do not provide an
appropriate standard for measuring female moral development and may be said to
be male-biased.
Many feminists seized on Gilligan’s work as offering evidence for the
existence of a characteristically feminine approach to morality, an approach
assumed to provide the basis for a distinctively feminist ethics. For some, indeed,
feminist ethics became and remains synonymous with an ethics of care. Just how
an ethics of care should be delineated, however, was far from evident; nor was it
clear whether it should supplement or supplant an ethics of justice. Many feminists
today are exploring such questions, even though the connection between women
and care is challenged by some psychologists who allege Gilligan’s samples to be
nonrepresentative, her methods of interpreting her data suspect, and her claims
impossible to substantiate, especially when the studies are controlled for
occupation and class.
Regardless of empirical findings in moral psychology, debate continues over
whether the fundamental tenets of western ethics are male biased in some sense: if
not in the sense that they express a moral sensibility characteristic of men rather
than women, then perhaps in that they promote a culturally masculine image of
moral psychology, discourage preoccupation with issues defined culturally as
feminine, or in other ways covertly advance men’s interests over women’s. Since
feminism is essentially a normative stance, and since its meaning is continually
contested by feminists themselves, all feminists are constantly engaged in ethical
reflection. In this sense, feminist ethics is practiced both inside and outside the
academy. Within the academy, its main practitioners are scholars in philosophy,
religion and jurisprudence. These scholars represent a variety of philosophical
traditions, secular and religious, Anglo-American and continental European; in
challenging perceived male bias in those traditions, they draw extensively on
feminist scholarship in other disciplines, such as literature, history and psychology.
Scholarly work in feminist ethics often is also responsive to the ethical
reflections of nonacademic feminists as these occur, for instance, in much feminist
fiction and poetry. In addition, a considerable body of nonfiction, written by
nonacademics and directed towards a nonacademic audience, presents itself as
feminist ethics. Popular feminist books and journals frequently engage in ethical
consideration of moral or public policy issues and sometimes also offer more
general discussions of supposedly “masculine” and “feminine” value systems.
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There are even grassroots journals of feminist ethics, such as Lesbian Ethics,
published in the United States, and Gossip: A Journal of Lesbian Feminist Ethics,
published in the United Kingdom. Feminist Ethics, published in Canada, seeks to
combine academic scholarship with accessibility to a general audience. One may
note striking parallels between many of the claims made by feminists inside the
academy and those on the outside.
Those who currently claim the field of feminist ethics are mainly, though not
exclusively, white western women. Nevertheless, a few male philosophers are
doing significant work in feminist ethics, and people of color have produced a
considerable amount of writing, both fiction and nonfiction, that seems compatible
with the moral and theoretical inspiration of feminist ethics. It is predictable that
women would be more likely than men to identify themselves as feminists, and
both nonwestemers and western people of color are less likely than western whites
either to be philosophers or, because of feminism’s racist history, to be feminists.
“Womanist” is a term that many African American authors currently prefer to
“feminist” but they might not object to the description of their work as feminist
ethics if feminism could be cleansed of racism and ethnocentrism.
Since most feminist ethics is done in a western context, it is western ethics,
particularly (though not exclusively) the European Enlightenment tradition, that is
the most frequent target of feminist critique. The feminist challenges to this
tradition may be grouped conveniently under five main headings.
Lack of concern for women’s interests. Many of the major theorists, such as
Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) and Rousseau (1712–1778), are accused of having given
insufficient consideration to women’s interests, a lack of concern expressed
theoretically by their prescribing for women allegedly feminine virtues such as
obedience, silence, and faithfulness. Some feminists charge that many
contemporary ethical discussions continue the tendency to regard women as
instrumental to male-dominated institutions, such as the family or the state; in
debates on abortion, for instance, the pregnant woman may be portrayed as little
more than a container or environment for the fetus, while debates on reproductive
technology are alleged to assume frequently that infertility is a problem only for
heterosexual married women, i.e., women defined in relationship to men.
Neglect of “women’s issues.” Issues of special concern to women are said to
have been ignored by modern moral philosophers, who have tended to portray the
domestic realm as an arena outside the economy and beyond justice, private in the
sense of being beyond the scope of legitimate political regulation. Even
philosophers like Aristotle or Hegel (1770–1831), who give some ethical
importance to the domestic realm, have tended to portray the home as an arena in
which the most fully human excellences are incapable of being realized. Feminist
philosophers began early to criticized this conceptual bifurcation of social life.
They pointed out that the home was precisely that realm to which women
historically had been confined, and that it had become symbolically associated with
the feminine, despite the fact that heads of households were paradigmatically male.
They argued that the philosophical devaluation of the domestic realm made it
impossible to raise questions about the justice of the domestic division of labor,
because it obscured the far-reaching social significance and creativity of women’s
work in the home, and concealed, even legitimated, the domestic abuse of women
and girls.
Denial of women’s moral agency. Women’s moral agency is said to have often
been denied, not simply by excluding women from moral debate or ignoring their
contributions, but through philosophical claims to the effect that women lack moral
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reason. Such claims were made originally by Aristotle, but they have been
elaborated and refined by modem theorists such as Rousseau, Kant (1724–1804),
Hegel, and Freud (1856–1939).
Depreciation of “feminine” values. Western moral theory is said to embody
values that are “masculine,” insofar as they are associated, empirically,
normatively, or symbolically, with men. For instance, western ethics is alleged to
prefer the supposedly masculine or male-associated values of independence,
autonomy, intellect, will, wariness, hierarchy, domination, culture, transcendence,
product, asceticism, war and death over the supposedly feminine or femaleassociated values of interdependence, community, connection, sharing, emotion,
body, trust, absence of hierarchy, nature, immanence, process, joy, peace and life.
Claims like this are common in both popular and academic feminist writings on
Devaluation of women’s moral experience. Finally, prevailing western
conceptualizations of the nature of morality, moral problems, and moral reasoning
are also charged with being masculine insofar as they too are associated with men,
an association that again may be empirical, symbolic or normative. For instance,
feminists have accused modem moral theory of being excessively preoccupied with
rules, obsessed with impartiality and exclusively focussed on discrete deeds. In
addition, feminists have charged modern moral theory with taking the contract as
the paradigmatic moral relation and construing moral rationality so narrowly as to
exclude emotions of assessment, sometimes called moral emotions. All these
characteristics have been asserted to be masculine in some sense. A feminine
approach to ethics, by contrast, has been supposed to avoid assuming that
individuals ordinarily are free, equal and independent; to take more account of the
specificities of particular contexts; and to be more likely to resolve moral dilemmas
by relying on empathic feeling rather than by appealing to rules.
Not all feminists endorse all of the above clusters of criticisms—and even
where they agree with the general statement, they may well disagree over its
applicability in the case of specific philosophers or debates. Despite such
differences of relative detail, feminists tend generally to agree on the first three
clusters of criticisms, whose correction seems not only attainable in principle
within the framework of Enlightenment moral theory but even to be required by
that framework. However, there is sharp feminist disagreement on the last two
clusters of criticisms, especially the fifth, which obviously contains clear parallels
with a number of nonfeminist criticisms of Enlightenment ethics made by
proponents of, for example, situation ethics, virtue ethics, communitarianism and
Feminist ethics has sometimes been construed, both by some of its proponents and
some of its critics, as a simple inversion of the criticisms listed above. In other
words, it has sometimes been identified with one or more of the following: putting
women’s interests first; focusing exclusively on so-called women’s issues;
accepting women (or feminists) as moral experts or authorities; substituting
“female” (or feminine) for “male” (or masculine) values; or extrapolating directly
from women’s moral experience. These characterizations of feminist ethics are
sufficiently pervasive that it is worth noting just why they cannot be correct.
1. Putting women’s interests first occasionally has been recommended as a
way of achieving a “woman-centered” ethics that transcends the covert bias of a
supposed humanism grounded in fact on male norms. Whatever might be said for
or against this recommendation, however, it cannot be definitive of feminist ethics.
This is because the formula, as it stands, raises more questions than it answers
insofar as it fails to specify not only which women’s interests should be preferred
over which men’s (or children’s) and in what circumstances, but also what should
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be done about conflicts of interest between women and even how interests should
be identified at all. Most obviously, feminist ethics cannot be identified with
“putting women’s interests first” simply because many feminists would refuse to
accept and, indeed, be morally outraged by what they would perceive as blatant
partiality and immorality.
2. Feminist ethics certainly is concerned to address issues of special concern to
women, issues that have been neglected by modern moral theory, but it cannot be
identified with an exclusive focus on such issues. This is partly because
nonfeminists as well as feminists have addressed these issues—and, indeed, are
doing so increasingly as feminism grows stronger and more articulate. It is also
because feminism rejects the notion that moral issues can be divided cleanly into
those that are and those that are not of special concern to women. On the one hand,
since men’s and women’s lives are inextricably intertwined, there are no “women’s
issues” that are not also men’s issues; the availability or otherwise of child care and
abortion, for instance, has significant consequences for the lives of men as well as
women. On the other hand, since men and women typically are not what lawyers
call “similarly situated” relative to each other, it is difficult to think of any moral or
public policy (“human”) issue in which women do not have a special interest. For
instance, such “human” issues as war, peace and world starvation have special
significance for women because the world’s hungry are disproportionately women
(and children), because women are primarily those in need of the social services
neglected to fund military spending, and because women benefit relatively little
from militarism and the weapons industries. For these reasons, it would be a
mistake to identify feminist ethics with attention to some explicitly gendered subset
of ethical issues. On the contrary, rather than being limited to a restricted ethical
domain, feminist ethics has enlarged the traditional concerns of ethics, both
through identifying previously unrecognized ethical issues and by introducing fresh
perspectives on issues already acknowledged as having an ethical dimension.
3. Feminist ethics certainly is being developed by feminists, most of whom are
women, but this does not imply, of course, that any women, or even feminists,
therefore should be regarded as moral experts whose moral authority is beyond
question. Not only are there deep disagreements among women and even among
feminists such that it would be difficult to know whom to select as an expert, but
many painful examples of the failure of insight or principle on the part of feminist
leaders also demonstrate only too clearly that no women, even feminists, are
morally infallible.
4. There are also serious difficulties with thinking of feminist ethics as the
substitution of female or feminine for male or masculine values. These difficulties
include problems with establishing that any values are male or female in the sense
of being generally held by men or women, when both women’s and men’s values
vary so much, both within cultures as well as across them. Similar problems
confront attempts to establish that certain values are masculine or feminine in the
sense of being considered socially appropriate for individuals of one gender or the
other. Again, norms of masculinity and femininity vary not only between societies
but even within the same society along such axes as class and ethnicity: some
social groups, for instance, value physical health, strength or athletic prowess in
women; others value physical fragility, weakness or incompetence. But even if
certain values could be identified in some sense as male or female, masculine or
feminine, the conclusive objection to identifying feminist ethics with the
elaboration of female or feminine values is that the feminine is not necessarily the
feminist. Indeed, since the feminine typically has been constructed in
circumstances of male domination, it is likely to be quite opposed to the feminist.
Personal charm, for example, may be valued not only in women but also by them;
even if charm were, in these senses, a feminine value, however, it would seem at
least as likely to undermine feminist goals as to promote them.
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5. Similar problems apply to defining feminist ethics as the systematic
extrapolation of women’s moral experience, exclusive of men’s. While no approach
to morality can be adequate if it ignores the moral experience of women, it seems
most unlikely that women generally are similar enough to each other and different
enough from men that a single distinctively female or feminine approach to ethics
can be identified. Attempts to establish such an identification frequently commit
the fallacy of generalizing about the experience of all or most women from the
moral experience of some women; this seems to have been one flaw at least in
Gilligan’s earlier work. Again, even if a distinctively feminine approach to morality
could be identified, perhaps in terms of symbolic or normative connections with
women rather than empirical ones, there is no reason to suppose that such an
approach would be feminist. Indeed, given the feminist commitment to a critical
rethinking of cultural constructions of both masculinity and femininity, there is
good prima facie reason to suppose that it would not.
Even though feminist ethics is far broader and more open than it appears in the
foregoing misconstruals, its goals are sufficiently specific, especially when taken in
conjunction with its criticisms of traditional ethics, as to generate certain minimum
conditions of adequacy for any approach to ethics that purports to be feminist.
1. First of all, feminist ethics can never begin by assuming that women and
men are similarly situated—although it may discover that this is the case in certain
respects in specific contexts. In addition, not only does feminist ethics need
constant vigilance to detect subtle as well as blatant manifestations of gender
privilege, it must also be sensitive to the ways in which gendered norms are
different for different groups of women—or in which the same norms, such as a
cultural preference for slimness or blondness, affect different groups of women
differently. Ultimately feminism’s concern for all women means that feminist
ethics must address not only “domestic” issues of racism or homophobia or class
privilege but also such international issues as environmental destruction, war, and
access to world resources.
2. In order to offer guides to action that will tend to subvert rather than
reinforce the present systematic subordination of women, feminist approaches to
ethics must understand individual actions in the context of broader social practices,
evaluating the symbolic and cumulative implications of action as well as its
immediately observable consequences. They must be equipped to recognize covert
as well as overt manifestations of domination, subtle as well as blatant forms of
control, and they must develop sophisticated accounts of coercion and consent.
Similarly, they must provide the conceptual resources for identifying and
evaluating the varieties of resistance and struggle in which women, particularly,
have engaged. They must recognize the often unnoticed ways in which women and
other members of the underclass have refused cooperation and opposed
domination, while acknowledging the inevitability of collusion and the
impossibility of totally clean hands. In short, feminist approaches to ethics must be
transitional and nonutopian, often extensions of, rather than alternatives to, feminist
political theory, exercises in non-ideal rather than ideal theory.
3. Since most of most women’s lives have been excluded from that domain
conceptualized as public, a third requirement for feminist approaches to ethics is
that they should be able to provide guidance on issues of so-called private life:
intimate relations, sexuality and childrearing. Thus, they must articulate the moral
dimensions of issues that may not hitherto have been recognized as moral. In
addition, we have seen that feminist approaches to ethics must provide appropriate
guidance for dealing with national and international issues, strangers and
foreigners. In developing the conceptual tools for undertaking these tasks, feminist
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ethics cannot assume that moral concepts developed originally for application to
the so-called public realm, concepts such as impartiality or exploitation, are
appropriate for use in the so-called private; neither can it assume that concepts such
as care, developed in intimate relationships, will necessarily be helpful in the larger
world. Indeed, the whole distinction between public and private life must be
examined critically by feminist ethics, with no prior assumptions as to whether the
distinction should be retained, redrawn or rejected.
4. Finally, feminist ethics must take the moral experience of all women
seriously, though not, of course, uncritically. Though what is feminist often will
turn out to be very different from what is feminine, a basic respect for women’s
moral experience is necessary to acknowledging women’s capacities as moralists
and to countering traditional stereotypes of women as less than full moral agents,
as childlike or close to nature. Furthermore, empirical claims about differences in
the moral sensibility of women and men make it impossible to assume that any
approach to ethics will be unanimously accepted if it fails to consult the moral
experience of women. Additionally, it seems plausible to suppose that women’s
distinctive social experience may make them especially perceptive regarding the
implications of domination, especially gender domination, and especially well
equipped to detect the male bias that feminists believe has pervaded so much of
male-authored western moral theory.
Most feminist, and perhaps even many non feminist, philosophers might well
find the general statement of these conditions quite uncontroversial, but they will
inevitably disagree sharply over when the conditions have been met. Not only may
feminists disagree with nonfeminists, but they are likely even to differ with each
other over, for instance, what are women’s interests, what are manifestations of
domination and coercion, how resistance should be expressed, and which aspects of
women’s moral experience are worth developing and in which directions.
Those who practice feminist ethics thus may be seen both as united by a shared
project and as diverging widely in their views as to how this project may be
accomplished. Their divergences result from a variety of philosophical differences,
including differing conceptions of feminism itself, which, as we have seen, is [a]
constantly contested concept. The inevitability of such divergence means that
feminist ethics can never be identified in terms of a specific range of topics,
methods or orthodoxies. While feminist ethics is distinguished by its explicit
commitment to developing approaches to ethics that will respect women’s moral
experience and avoid rationalizing women’s subordination, attempts to define it
more precisely or substantively than this are likely to disregard the richness and
variety of feminist moral thinking and prematurely foreclose the feminist moral
Despite the scope and diversity of feminist ethics, certain current preoccupations
may be identified. These preoccupations are not definitive of feminist ethics, but
they are characteristic of its present stage of development. (They are also,
sometimes in different ways, preoccupations of much contemporary nonfeminist
ethics.) They include concern with issues of universality and particularity, sociality
and individuality, moral emotion and moral rationality. These concerns are not
independent of each other and they may be discerned underlying many
contemporary feminist approaches to practical issues, such as equality, health care,
or the environment, as well as being foci of feminist reflection on such traditional
philosophical issues as moral subjectivity and moral epistemology.
Feminist challenges to traditional views of moral subjectivity are not limited to
assertions (contra Aristotle, Rousseau, Kant and Hegel) that women are as capable
as men of moral virtue or rationality. Instead, many feminists have drawn on and
extended nonfeminist criticisms of the basic model of the moral self most
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characteristic of Enlightenment moral theory, a model derived from Descartes
(1596–1650) and portraying the self as disembodied, asocial, autonomous, unified,
rational and essentially similar to all other selves. This model, of course, has been
under attack for over a century from, among others, Marxists, Freudians,
contemporary communitarians, and postmodernists. Feminists often share many
conclusions with such nonfeminist critics of Enlightenment theory, but they arrive
at those conclusions by different routes, and often they add to them the claim that
the Cartesian model is male-biased (as well as class- and possibly race-biased), in
that it reflects the interests and values of European bourgeois men and either
ignores divergent interests and values or portrays them as less than fully human.
One source of feminist challenge to the Cartesian self is a growing
philosophical interest in embodiment. This itself springs partly from feminist
outrage over the male control and exploitation of women’s bodies, partly from the
feminist recognition that much of the responsibility for physical reproduction and
bodily maintenance traditionally has been assigned to women—both of which
reinforce symbolic western associations between women and the body.
Philosophical reflection that begins from the body tends to highlight features of
human nature very different from those emphasized by Cartesianism: temporality
rather than timelessness, growth and decay rather than changelessness, particularity
rather than universality, sociality rather than isolation. These features, in turn, tend
to generate concerns for ethics different from those that dominated much
Enlightenment theory: inequality, dependence and interdependence, specificity,
social embeddedness and historical community now must all be recognized as
permanent circumstances of moral life, never to be avoided or transcended by
focusing on equality, independence, autonomy, generality, isolated individuals,
ideal communities or the universal human condition. It does not escape feminist
authors that concern with precisely the former circumstances has been claimed by
many to be distinctively feminine—preoccupying women in virtue of their social
situation, associated symbolically with women or defined culturally as appropriate
to women.
Conceiving moral subjects as embodied also has psychological implications:
insofar as their identity is significantly constituted by their specific social
relationships (relationships determined at least in part by the social meaning
attributed to bodily characteristics such as parentage, age or sex), moral subjects
conceived in this way are revealed as likely to be moved by considerations of
particular attachment as much as abstract concern for duty, care as much as respect,
solidarity as much as dignity, responsibility as much as right. Many feminists
currently argue that much Enlightenment moral psychology is inadequate insofar as
it fails to take adequate account of these propensities, conceiving them at best as
morally irrelevant, at worst as morally subversive. In addition, noting the ways in
which the psyche is shaped by social practices, especially childrearing and other
gendered practices, many feminists criticize the common Enlightenment
assumption that people are essentially alike, rational and autarchic. Noting the
significance of fantasy in our lives, they deny that consciousness is transparent and
unified and that individuals always know their own interests best. In general, they
challenge much Enlightenment moral psychology for its failure to recognize that, if
autonomy exists at all, it is an achievement with complex material and social
That people in fact have certain psychological propensities of course does not
entail that those propensities are morally relevant, let alone morally desirable; on
the other hand, an adequate moral theory cannot be grounded in a psychology that
is descriptively inadequate. Many feminists claim that much Enlightenment moral
psychology is so alien to the ways in which people in fact do act and think morally
that it cannot serve even as an acceptable reconstruction of moral reasoning. For
instance, by failing to appreciate the moral significance of the psychological
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characteristics noted above, it offers a model of moral rationality that is unduly
narrow in disregarding emotion, and likely to generate morally repugnant
conclusions that ignore our responsibility for the welfare of others, neglect the
claims of conventional morality, and undervalue the moral weight of particular
relationships. Some feminists go on to argue that most Enlightenment models of
moral rationality are not only empirically and morally inadequate but also serve,
insofar as they are culturally accepted, as oppressive norms for those social groups,
including perhaps some groups of women, whose moral thinking is stigmatized as
amoral or immoral for failing to conform to these models.
Morality on most Enlightenment views is a system of rationally justified rules
or principles that guide action in specific cases. Many contemporary feminists, by
contrast, deny that morality is reducible to rules and assert the impossibility of
justifying the claims of ethics by appeal to a universal, impartial reason. They
charge that undue emphasis on the epistemological importance of moral rules
obscures the crucial role of moral insight, virtue and character in determining the
right course of action. Some give a feminist twist to this essentially Aristotelian
criticism by claiming that excessive reliance on rules reflects a juridicaladministrative interest that is characteristic of modem masculinity—contemporary
women, by contrast, are claimed to be more likely to disregard conventionally
accepted moral rules because such rules are insensitive to the specificities of
particular situations. Some feminists assert, therefore, that a morality of rule
devalues the moral wisdom of women and gives insufficient weight to such
supposedly feminine virtues as kindness, generosity, helpfulness and sympathy.
Though many feminists continue to defend various versions of Enlightenment
moral theory, many others are concerned not merely to criticize them but also to
develop alternatives to them—alternatives that will avoid their perceived
shortcomings while meeting the conditions of adequacy identified earlier. Thus,
contemporary feminists are exploring ways of thinking about moral subjects that
are sensitive both to their concrete particularity and their intrinsic shared value—
the ideal expressed in Enlightenment claims about common humanity, equality and
impartiality; developing “particularist” epistemologies that recognize the moral
validity of immediate, emotion-laden responses to particular others while avoiding
subjective relativism; and finding ways of simultaneously acknowledging and
criticizing the claims of conventional morality—known colloquially as living with
contradictions. They are exploring these approaches in the context of developing
feminist perspectives on many of the most pressing moral issues of our time.
Alison M. Jaggar, “Feminist Ethics,” in Encyclopedia of Ethics, ed. Lawrence C. Becker and
Charlotte B. Becker (New York: Garland Publishing, 1992). Reproduced by permission of Taylor
and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.

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If you like the writer, you can hire them again. Just copy & paste their ID on the order form ("Preferred Writer's ID" field). This way, your vocabulary will be uniform, and the writer will be aware of your needs.
The same paper from different writers
You can order essay or any other work from two different writers to choose the best one or give another version to a friend. This can be done through the add-on "Same paper from another writer."
Copy of sources used by the writer
Our college essay writers work with ScienceDirect and other databases. They can send you articles or materials used in PDF or through screenshots. Just tick the "Copy of sources" field on the order form.
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Check out the latest reviews and opinions submitted by real customers worldwide and make an informed decision.
Job well done and completed in a timely fashioned!
Customer 452451, November 18th, 2022
Architecture, Building and Planning
The assignment was well written and the paper was delivered on time. I really enjoyed your services.
Customer 452441, September 23rd, 2022
English 101
Very good job. I actually got an A
Customer 452443, September 25th, 2022
Excellent services will definitely come back
Customer 452441, September 23rd, 2022
excellent loved the services
Customer 452443, September 23rd, 2022
The paper was EXCELLENT. Thank you
Customer 452449, September 23rd, 2022
Thanks a lot the paper was excellent
Customer 452453, October 26th, 2022
Business Studies
Job well done. Finish paper faster than expected. Thank you!
Customer 452451, October 3rd, 2022
Business Studies
Thank you!
Customer 452451, November 27th, 2022
Customer reviews in total
Current satisfaction rate
3 pages
Average paper length
Customers referred by a friend
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