American psychologist Carol Gilligan holds that dominant ethical theories, with their strong emphasis on rights and justice, fail to see how care is an indispensable part of moral life. This failure weakens their credibility as adequate, universal ethical theories. In Comprehending Care, Tove Pettersen investigates whether an ethics of care really does give voice to a normative perspective that traditional moral theory has disregarded. More specifically, she considers whether Carol Gilligan's own theoretical contribution is an ethical theory of care, and if it is likely to contribute to such a revised understanding. Pettersen argues that central elements in a consistent and justifiable ethics of care theory can in fact be extracted from her works, and is an ethics that to some extent challenges traditional ethical theories by revealing some of their ontological and epistemological inadequacies, such as tacit assumptions, unforeseen disturbing implications, and deficient moral categories. Within Gilligan's theoretical stance, Pettersen finds suggestions for necessary revisions to remedy the flawed or deficient understanding generated by traditional ethical theory. She argues, however, that Gilligan exaggerates her general critique of Western moral philosophy, and specifically of the 'justice tradition,' and she exposes how Gilligan's portrayal of this tradition is misguided in places, arguing that accommodating the concerns of justice is a central challenge, yet to be met, for an ethics of care.
In Comprehending Care, Tove Pettersen subjects the ethics of care, as advanced by Carol Gilligan, to a moral-philosophical examination. More precisely, she extracts the philosophical foundation in this ethics, probes its possible implications for moral theory of a more traditional stamp, and explores its normative plausibility. Pettersen exposes several misconceptions of Gilligan's work.
Chapter 1: The Perspective of Care Chapter 2: Gender Issues and Criticism Chapter 3: Normative Foundations and Formal Features Chapter 4: Care, Cognition, and Emotions Chapter 5: Care and Traditional Moral Theory Chapter 6: Care and Justice: Reconciling Opposites Chapter 7: Distributing Mature Care Chapter 8: Conditional Care Chapter 9: Why Care? Ethical Justification of Thick Care Chapter 10: The Circles of Care
Well-informed and tightly argued, this book helps disentangle, clarify, and resolve many issues hotly contested in the care-versus-justice literature. Pettersen's even-handed and non-ideological discussion shows how philosophical methods and skills can raise the level of debate and thereby open the way toward a synthesis between apparently irreconcilable views. -- Thomas PoggeThere are many things to admire in Pettersen's work....A thorough, comprehensive account....This is a fine work that will enhance any library devoted to contemporary ethics, feminism, and the conjunction of ethics and feminism. * Metapsychology Online, November 2008 *Carol Gilligan's In a Different Voice is often cited but seldom read, and rarely read carefully. Tove Pettersen offers a fresh and expansive reading of the feminist 'ethic of care' by beginning from Gilligan and pursuing it to contemporary efforts to use care ethics to understand global perspectives. It is an intelligent and innovative reading of this growing tradition. -- Joan C. Tronto, Hunter College, The City University of New York
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