Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

by Nel Noddings

Or, as Noddings asserts, caring and the memory of being cared for?

With numerous examples to supplement her rich theoretical discussion, Noddings builds a compelling philosophical argument for an ethics based on natural caring, as in the care of a mother for her child.

The ethical behavior that grows out of natural caring, and has as its core care-filled receptivity to those involved in any moral situation, leaves behind the rigidity of rule and principle to focus on what is particular and unique in human relations.Noddings's discussion is wide-ranging, as she considers whether organizations, which operate at a remove from the caring relationship, can truly be called ethical.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 3.76
  • Pages: 236
  • Publish Date: June 1st 2003 by University of California Press
  • Isbn10: 0520238648
  • Isbn13: 9780520238640

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Noddings believes with others that a revaluation of care is necessary both in personal and public relationships, however she primarily focuses on the personal. It is this reader's belief that Noddings has more or less adopted Martin Buber's "I and Thou" wholesale and is attempting to (re)work it into a feminist ethic. Noddings cites Buber amply, and yet she seems to miss fundamental features of his thinking, which could actually help to correct her own account. Noddings wants to claim that the caring relationship she is talking about is reciprocal (she claims it is), but it is not reciprocal in the strong sense that Buber means. The last thing I will mention is Noddings very clever, but ultimately strange claim that we enhance the ethical ideal of caring in ourselves through feeling joy in relation to others. Noddings, who construes human beings as existentially bound in relation, decides that this leads to a (quasi-metaphysical, mostly magical/woo woo) joy in this fact. First, I'm not sure you can derive joy purely from a natural fact of our existence such as relatedness. Maybe it should, but if she's developing an ethic of care based on "lived experience" then she needs to acknowledge that social structures actually militate against caring for many (especially) marginalized women/men.

This is an important book for those interested in, education, feminine epistemology, and parenting.

There are many good points in it, but there is just too much that gets up my nose,like when she claims that the only thing that really matters in education is the caring relationship between teacher and pupil. Furthermore, I dont think the limitations can be overcome by replacing all rational discourse exclusively with the affective concept of caring. No doubt caring is an important dimension of human relationships, but I dont think its the only or even the principal one. I think by and large most men will dismiss her concept as one that doesnt concern them, and many women will be made to feel guilty, because they do not meet that standard of self-denial and self-sacrifice and completely-dissolving-ones-individuality-in-total-identification-with-the-other.

This book nails what seems to me to be a very robust and compelling alternative to rules-based moral frameworks without degenerating into wishy-washy-touchy-feeliness (what Noddings calls "agapism") in any way. Noddings seems to me to be a clear successor to Addams in her strict focus on achievable virtue and ideals that are grounded in the history of the self.

One might respond that someone (no always the same person) in the relationship is always in the caring-for position, so the theory extends just fine, but that is not satisfactory to me.

Noddings seems to think so, and while she didn't convince me, she did demonstrate that we need a better assessment of the question.

Nel Noddings is an American feminist, educationalist, and philosopher best known for her work in philosophy of education, educational theory, and ethics of care. While at Stanford University she received awards for teaching excellence in 1981, 1982 and 1997, and was the associate dean or acting dean of the School of Education for four years.