Care Ethics and Poetry

Care Ethics and Poetry is the first book length work to address the relationship between poetry and feminist care ethics.  

The authors argue that morality, and more specifically, moral progress, is a product of inquiry, imagination, and confronting new experiences. Engaging poetry, therefore, can contribute to the habits necessary for a robust moral life—specifically, caring.  

Each chapter offers poems that can provoke considerations of moral relations without explicitly moralizing. Topics include Poetry and Ethics, Habits of Caring Knowledge, Habits of Imagination, Habits of Encountering Singularity, and Moral Progress.  The book contributes to valorizing poetry and aesthetic experience as much as it does to reassessing how we think about care ethics.

Primarily a book of philosophy rather than literary analysis, Care Ethics and Poetry includes dozens of poems.  For those who view care theory as more than a normative ethic of adjudication, this will be an important work.

Care Ethics and Poetry by Maurice Hamington and Ce Rosenow.  
ISBN-10: 303017977X  ISBN-13: 978-3030179779


“A lovely tribute to both poetry and care ethics and how, together, they increase moral sensitivity and joy in our relationships.”
Nel Noddings, Lee Jacks Professor of Child Education, Emerita, Stanford University

“Finally, a book that does justice to care by welcoming complexity, context and creativity. This polyvocal book delightfully and meticulously tells us the story about a performative and aesthetic approach to caring and moral progress. Slowly but surely, one becomes part of an intimate tapestry of voices of poets, ethicists and moral philosophers. Hamington and Rosenow not only provide us with new ethical language, they also evoke wonder and a longing for more.”
Merel Visse, Associate Professor of Care Ethics, University of Humanistic Studies, The Netherlands

Philosophical Laboratory of the Global Age – Labfileglob

CERC participates in the new and stimulating Philosophical Laboratory of the Global Age (Labfileglob) that has just been launched by professor Elena Pulcini, one of the members of the steering committee of CERC.

The members of Labfileglob share a strong interest in the study of the problems and issues related to the main transformations occurring with the global age. Even though the Labfileglob members come from different disciplines, they strongly believe that philosophy could and should contribute to analyzing the urgent challenges produced by globalization.


This is the reason why Labfileglob aims to develop a critical approach, able to connect the current challenges with the analytical and methodological tools provided by social philosophy. According to this perspective, Labfileglob wants to outline possible remedies to these challenges at the ethical, social and political levels, not by referring to abstract normative principles, but by following an immanent critique enabled by the subjects and resources within the social reality.[pullquote]Labfileglob’s activities also include publications in peer-reviewed journals, collective volumes and monographs hosting its members’ research.[/pullquote]

Such an immanent approach requires reflection on the psycho-anthropological structure of individuals starting from their socio-historical living contexts, in order to further investigate the motivations – especially the emotional ones – and the world images at the root of the individual and social agency. This philosophical approach provides a critical diagnosis of the present grounded on a transformative perspective and inspired by world images so as to develop a utopic and post-ideological emancipatory project.

Theoretical framework

Within this theoretical framework, Labfileglob devotes special attention to the following issues and approaches:

  • analysis of the global challenges and their ethical, affective and psychological effects on subjectivities;
  • critical diagnosis of capitalism as a dynamic form of life that has assumed a global scale, reframing its relationship with politics, nature and society;
  • an anthropological theory of democracy, able to explain the changed relationships between politics, violence, power and domination better than the traditional approaches;
  • relational theory of the subject, inspired by some feminist reflections and gender studies, going beyond the opposition between the modern idea of a sovereign subject and the postmodern idea of the implosion of the subject;
  • reflection on a set of key concepts – such as vulnerability, interdependence, conflict, care, responsibility, sense, imagination and world image – to outline the possible affective, ethical and political remedies for an emancipatory transformation of the present.

Methodological frame

This methodological frame and this thematic focus entail the following requirements:

  • a careful consideration of the most significant classics for a critical diagnosis of the present;
  • new focus on as-yet-unexplored or underestimated theoretical perspectives;
  • open interdisciplinarity, involving sociology, political science, anthropology and psychoanalysis, neurosciences, literature and cinema;
  • a fresh discussion of fundamental concepts of the philosophical theory of modernity in order to verify whether it is obsolete or continues to be valid in the face of the present epochal transformations.

Laboratorio di Filosofia dell’età globale (Labfileglob)

Eva Feder Kittay

Interview with Eva Feder Kittay, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, at the Department of Philosophyat Stony Brook University, New York. 

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am at Stony Brook University, where I have been since 1979.

2 Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?

I am working on a number of projects, some are directly on the ethics of care and some are in the area of philosophy and disability—especially cognitive disability—which is also deeply informed by the ethics of care. The work in the ethics of care includes a piece I will be writing on how to think about a politics in which the first virtue is care. Joan Tronto’s latest book promises to be an exercise in just this line of thought. The work of numerous scholars has shown the many ways in which care is relevant to realms outside the domain of the intimate and the domestic. But an ethics of care is an ethic, not a politics. It is still concerned with relations individuals bear to individuals not with the institutional structures and forms that are the concern of politics. How should we think about institutional structures when we consider the first virtue of social organization to be care rather than justice? What sorts of institutions can foster caring relationships? What sorts of institutions are indifferent or even hostile to promoting them?

Answers to these questions require a genuinely normative conception of care. If care is to be a normative conception, we should not be able to speak of such a thing as “too much care” any more than we can speak of “too much justice.” Uses of the term “care” that countenance care as overweaning or paternalistic or merely a “natural disposition” fall outside the normative sense. This is not to say that we never speak about care in such ways, nor that a normative conception cannot build on a moral psychology that includes natural human capacities to respond empathetically to others. But if an ethic of care is to be a true ethic that guides us and helps us evaluate actions are good or morally desirable ones and steers us away from those that are harmful or gratuitously hurtful, and if we are to build institutions that promote the values inherent in a true ethic of care, then we need to sort out the normative sense of care—that is, those that are prescriptive, that tell us what we ought to do to act in a caring way.

Such a notion of care can perhaps best be approached from what Nel Noddings called “the completion of care.” Noddings, along with Tronto spoke of an aspect of care that few others have pursued. Tronto called it the fourth phase of care, the receiving of care, while Noddings spoke of care needing to be completed in the other. This is a profoundly important aspect of care that has been glossed over and that can, I believe help us identify the truly normative sense of care. If care must be received as care by the one cared for, then many things that we sometimes identify with care, such as caring intentions or affect will be insufficient to be care. If care needs to be completed in the other, then actions that are overweaning or paternalistic will not be taken us as something desirable—as something that is really caring—by the cared for. The project to take up the consequences of “the completion of care” is then another project I am engaged with.

And finally, a third project I am continuing to work on is the global care chains, about which I have written several articles. I have just completed a third piece on the topic that I call “The Body as the Place of Care.” I am working with a group on Care and Place and my thinking about migrant carework is being informed by the study of the relationship between Care and Place.

The work on disability that I am now doing is a manuscript tentatively entitled “Disabled Minds and Things That Matter: Lessons Toward a Humbler Philosophy.” In this work I am pulling together the themes that have emerged in my essays as I have confront traditional philosophical thought with the fact of cognitively disabled individuals. My thinking here is grounded in an ethics of care. Questions such as the dignity of people with cognitive impairments, the personhood of people with severe cognitive disability and justice toward the cognitively disabled on the role of care in human social life and in creating us as the relational beings we are ones that I treat using an ethics of care.

In addition I will be doing a paper on disparities of health care resources directed at the disabled. This is a new concern, but it comes out of the work on the efforts of some to reduce the moral status of people with cognitive disabilities and there is a danger that this will result in cut backs to people with these disabilities.

3. How did you get involved in the ethics of care?

I have been interested in feminist philosophy from its inception. I taught my first course in feminist philosophy in 1978 when there were only about five books on the subject, one of which was The Second Sex. I worked in the philosophy of language, and had not studied much ethics in graduate school because I found the sort of ethics being done then, mostly analytic metaethics, not interesting to me. Nonetheless the reason I first got interested in philosophy was because of my interest in ethics.

When Gilligan published “In a Different Voice” I asked my friend Diana Meyers, who worked in ethics, to help me put together a conference in which moral philosophers and feminist philosophers would look at the proposition that there was an ethics of care that philosophers had neglected. The conference issued in what was a ground-breaking collection, Women and Moral Theory. At that point, I was not yet ready to write in the area because I felt I was insufficiently schooled in ethics. But I taught the material regularly and wrote in the area of feminist philosophy. An invitation to give a talk on the “Elusiveness of Equality” plunged me into the literature on equality and I began to see the relevance of the relational approach to ethics that an ethics of care presented.

Equality, I saw, has been elusive to women because women continued to do the work of care even as they entered the workplace, and neither men, nor accommodations in the workplace, eased the traditional work of caregiving for women. Women accepted their caregiving obligations because they had a stronger sense of responsibility to do this work; they had a more abiding ethic of care which they did not give up as they joined the world of men, a world created upon, and without the recognition of, women’s work of care—and most especially care of dependents. Women caring for dependents made women dependent and unable to function and compete on par with the “independent” unencumbered men. In order to understand the dynamics and the place of care and an ethic of care in allowing women to, as Beauvoir writes, “share the world in equality,” I had to think through important conceptions in an ethics of care: the asymmetric relationships, the relational self, the relationship of care and justice, and so forth.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

An ethics of care takes caring relationships as a morally fundamental form of relationship and value. The moral agent is a caring self, who can look past her own immediate needs and desires and takes on the cares of the other as her own. An ethics of care sees the affective connection between people as prior to a calculative reason that binds self-interested person. An ethics of care is fundamentally other-directed, but it is an ethic that understands that our own well-being is never entirely independent of the well-being of the other. An ethics of care understands responsibility to be bound by the connection to and an understanding of the needs and wants of the other. Asymmetrical and partial relations are as morally relevant as symmetrical and impartial ones and the mode of deliberation at once respects both emotional responses as well as rational considerations.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?

Eva Feder Kittay
Eva Feder Kittay

An ethics of care allowed me to make sense of how my mother could be as good a person as she was given that she failed to personify the rational impartial moral deliberator that I had learned to prize in my readings in philosophy. My father, also a good man, answered to those criteria, but in some ways my mother was generous with herself, and more giving (although her political judgment was often off). Not untill I read Gilligan did I see why there was such a dissonance between the moral conception of the person as I understood it philosophically, and the fact of my mother’s moral character. In addition, an ethics of care has given me another way of seeing how my own disabled daughter fits into the moral universe. I never doubted she did, but the conceptions at hand were not helpful in allowing me to identify her place in any fully articulated philosophical scheme.

6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

Although there has been wonderful work done in care theory, I keep going back to Gilligan and Sara Ruddick whose initial insights continue to yield fruit.

7. What works in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?

To enumerate a list would inevitably leave out work that is equally important. I don’t like to play the “most important” game.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

Well, Love’s Labor is still a good statement of my fundamental vision. But I have done much else since then. Much of it is also connected to my work on issues of disability. Woman and Moral Theory, although old, is still chock full of good things. I am very proud of The Subject of Care that I coedited with Ellen Feder. Among my articles I would note:

  • Not My Way, Sesha, Your Way, Slowly: ‘Maternal Thinking’ in the Raising of a Child with Profound Intellectual Disabilities.” In Mother Trouble: Legal Theorists, Philosophers and Theologians Reflect on Dilemmas of Parenting. Edited by Julia Hanisberg and Sara Ruddick. New York: Beacon Press, 1999, pp.3-27.
  • “At Home with My Daughter: Reflections on Olmstead v. L. C. and E. W.” In Americans With Disabilities: Exploring Implications of the Law for Individuals and Institutions. Edited by Leslie Francis and Anita Silvers, Rouledge, 2000.
  • “Relationality, Personhood, and Peter Singer on the Fate of Severely Impaired Infants.” APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Medicine, Winter 2000. Reprinted in Pediatric Bioethics, edited by Geoffrey Miller, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2009.
  • “When Care is Just and Justice is Caring: The Case of the Care for the Mentally Retarded” Public Culture, vol. 13, no. 3, Special issue “The Critical Limits of Embodiment: Reflections on Disability Criticism.” September 2001, pp. 557-579. Reprinted in Kittay and Feder, The Subject of Care.
  • “On the Margins of Moral Personhood,” Ethics, October 2006, 100-131. Reprinted in Journal Of Bioethical Inquiry (2008) Volume: 5, Issue: March, Publisher: Springer Netherlands, Pages: 137-156
  • “Equality, Dignity and Disability” in Mary Ann Lyons and Fionnuala Waldron (eds.) (2005) Perspectives on Equality The Second Seamus Heaney Lectures. Dublin: The Liffey Press, pp. 95-122.
  • “Dependency, Difference, and Global Ethic of Longterm Care” (with Bruce Jennings and Angela Wasunna) The Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 13 (2005), 443-469. Reprinted in Philosophy, Politics & Society, 8th Series (Population & Political Theory), ed. James S Fishkin and Robert E Goodin (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008 or 9). Reprinted in the Taiwanese Journal of Social Welfare, 2006.
  • “Beyond Autonomy and Paternalism,” Denier & T. Vandevelde, editor, Autonomy and Paternalism. Between Independence and Good Intentions, Leuven: Peeters, 2006, pp 1-29.
  • “A Tribute to an Idea: The Completion of Care” in Letters to Nel Noddings: Mother,Teacher, Scholar, Friend. ed. Robert Lake, Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2011.
  • “The Ethics of Care, Dependence and Disability “Getting from Here to There: Claiming Justice for People with Severe Cognitive Disabilities” in Rosamund Rhodes, Margaret Battin P., and Anita Silvers, editors, Medicine and Social Justice: Essays on the Distribution of Health Care, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press: New York (2012), pp. 313-324.
  • “The Moral Harm of Migrant Carework: Realizing a Global Right to Care” Polity volume, Gender & Global Justice. (revised and reprinted from Philosophical Topics, vol. 37, no. 1, Spring 2010, pp. 53-73) forthcoming
  • “Getting from Here to There: Claiming Justice for People with Severe Cognitive Disabilities” in Rosamund Rhodes, Margaret Battin P., and Anita Silvers, editors, Medicine and Social Justice: Essays on the Distribution of Health Care, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press: New York (2012), pp. 313-324.

9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?

A critical question, of course, is how to see an ethics of care as a global ethics and a politics. I also think it is important to understand the place of respect within an ethics of care. As I said, I think that most fundamentally we need to articulate the normative heart of care and to prune away those senses of care that come with its being borne of a practice done by those who are in a subordinate relatively powerless position. I think we need to understand the relationship between care and violence in order to see how the first aspect of our nature can be promoted and the second curbed. And finally, I think we need to connect an ethic of care to the struggles of marginalized, subordinated and endangered others. Understanding the self relationally has a great deal of power to help release us from oppressive conditions and oppressive practices. We need to develop an ethics of care in these directions.

10. It is our ambition to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

Encourage care ethicists to bring their considerations to bear on questions of disability, sexual minorities, questions of immigration and globalization. Encourage economists to come together with care ethicists to understand the economic structures that keep the work of caring as the responsibility of the disempowered. Encourage politicians to talk about issues of care. Engage in projects that help us to see what the best caring practices are for groups that find current practices unsatisfactory or oppressive.

? Eva Feder Kittay

Michael Slote

Michael Slote is UST Professor of Ethics at the University of Miami and is author of  “The Ethics of Care and Empathy” and “Moral Sentimentalism”. He was previously professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland, and at Trinity College Dublin.

He is widely recognized as a leading figure in the recently renewed field of virtue ethics. He argues that virtue ethics, in a particular form which draws on the concept of an ethics of care, offers significant intuitive and structural advantages over deontology, utilitarianism, and common-sense morality. He has also recently endorsed the meta-ethical view of moral sentimentalism in opposition to moral rationalism. ((Wikipedia))

1. What are you working on at this moment?

I am working on the importance of receptivity both as a corrective to the Western philosophical tendency to overemphasize rational control in human life and as an entry point to understanding how Chinese ethical thought can be useful to present-day Western philosophizing.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?

Care is arguably based in empathy, but both require a certain degree of receptivity, and I think care ethics needs to be more explicitly aware of this. Proper attention to the importance of receptivity will not only favor care ethics over moral rationalism, but (as suggested above) indicate other areas of human life and thought that have largely been misunderstood or distorted by traditional Western philosophy.

3. How did you get involved into the ethics of care?

I was pushing virtue ethics in a sentimentalist vein, and care ethics is the contemporary ethical philosophy that comes closest to such a virtue ethics. I later saw, or thought I saw, that there is no reason for the sentimentalist virtue ethicist not to be or become a care ethicist.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

Well, there are lots of different views that nowadays go under the name of care ethics, and that is the mark of a mature or maturing school or approach. What they seem to have in common is the idea that caring should be philosophically foregrounded relative to other ethical virtues and desirable relationships. But how best to do this is, of course, a matter of some dispute.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?

Well, it has pointed me toward a larger critique of traditional (and patriarchal) Western values.

6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

Nel Noddings and Carol Gilligan

7. What works in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?

The early work of those two authors stands out. But there is much recent work on care ethics that carries things forward. Perhaps I shouldn’t get into specifics.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

Well, the two books The Ethics of Care and Empathy and Moral Sentimentalism would be good.

9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?

I think care ethics has to pay more attention to traditional philosophical issues, though of course it will want to treat them in its own distinctive way. And we need to consider how the skills and intellectual virtues that inform or are supposed to inform care ethics can be made available and shown to be important to ethical practitioners who resist or reject care ethics.

10. Our ambition is to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

If you wish to involve me in your ongoing activities, I’d be interested. I’m not sure a journal solely devoted to care ethics is a good idea, but your website can play a significant role, surely.

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Elisabeth Conradi

Elisabeth Conradi started to study philosophy, German literature and educational theory at Heidelberg University and then continued and completed her studies at Frankfurt University where she earned the Master’s degree in philosophy, presenting a thesis on Immanuel Kant’s Philosophy of Right. As a visiting scholar she conducted research at the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, Illinois, and at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria. Prior to that she was engaged in postgraduate studies with Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas, as well as with guest professors Seyla Benhabib, Nancy Fraser, Judith Butler, Iris Young, and Joan Tronto. She also took courses at the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

Since March 2009 I am Professor of Philosophy and Social Theory and member of the social work faculty at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University Stuttgart. I am also affiliated to the University of Göttingen, where I qualified to supervise doctoral candidates by the process of habilitation in the academic field of Political Science.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?

The two questions at the centre of my work are: How can the reflection of practice and the reflection of theory become systematically connected? And: How can the tension as well as the relation between politics and ethics be understood? Engaging these questions, my current book (Frankfurt 2011) introduces a conception of “social transformation through successful practices” in the context of a “cosmopolitan civil society”.

Both questions – the connection between practice and theory as well as the relation between politics and ethics – have been also discussed in my book “Take Care” (2001). Here I interrogate the deontological foundation of respect through equality, autonomy, and reciprocity as well as the idea of a contractual society. As an alternative I propose a foundation of an ethics of attentiveness and explicate how people take responsibility, and act in a careful and cooperative way.

3. How did you get involved into the ethics of care?

During my graduate studies of philosophy at Frankfurt University I got to know the “discourse ethics” as a predominant moral theory. In this approach Jürgen Habermas and Karl-Otto Apel adopt the justice perspective explicated by Lawrence Kohlberg. This perspective refers to conflicting individual rights, general rules and obligations. In contrast to it, the care perspective developed by Carol Gilligan emphasises communication and personal responsibilities, the situational context, and the preservation of relationships.

During my graduate studies of philosophy at Frankfurt University it was one of my main interests to transfer Gilligan’s critique of Kohlberg to the theories of Kant, Rawls and Habermas. Furthermore it was my concern (and still is) to expand the care perspective from the moral realm to political theory.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

Carol Gilligan as well as Joan Tronto lay stress on the moral requirement ‘not to turn away from someone in need.’ While Gilligan locates the moral problem in the fact that someone is hurt through detachment, Tronto points to the need that should be met.

If care is understood as a perspective, one does have to assume that it is located within the individual subject. If care is understood as an activity, it can be seen as located between subjects. Both aspects of care – relatedness and activity – integrate into the concept of a social practice.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?

In the course of care interactions the persons involved enter into (or continue) a relationship with one another. The relationship is intensified through care.

6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

At Frankfurt University I became acquainted with the work of Carol Gilligan and Virginia Held through Andrea Maihofer who criticised “discourse ethics” from a gendered perspective. I also participated in a group of graduate students that planned and organized an international guest professorship inviting Seyla Benhabib, Nancy Fraser, Iris Marion Young, and Joan Tronto.

7. What works in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?

I already referred to Carol Gilligan (In a Different Voice 1982, Mapping the Moral Domain (ed) 1988) and Joan Tronto (Moral Boundaries 1993).

Especially for opening the care debate in the direction of global responsibility I further suggest Virginia Held (The Ethics of Care 2005, Justice and Care (ed) 1995) and Margaret Walker (The Curious Case of Care and Restorative Justice in the U.S. Context, in: Hamington 2006 pp. 145-162) as well as Iris Young (Responsibility, Social Connection, and Global Labor Justice, in: Young: Global challenges 2007) and Christine Koggel (Poverty and Global Justice, in: Cragg, Koggel 2004).

For the Debate in German these authors have been especially important: Andrea Maihofer (Geschlecht als Existenzweise 1995), Herlinde Pauer-Studer (Das Andere der Gerechtigkeit 1996), Annemarie Pieper (Gibt es eine feministische Ethik? 1998) and Ina Praetorius (Skizzen zur feministischen Ethik 1995). While I disagree with Silvia Käppeli (Vom Glaubenswerk zur Pflegewissenschaft 2004) I consider her work to be important.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

  • Elisabeth Conradi: Ethik und Politik. Wie eine Ethik der Achtsamkeit mit politischer Verantwortung verbunden werden kann. In: Hartmut Remmers, Helen Kohlen (Hg): Bioethics, Care and Gender. Herausforderungen für Medizin, Pflege und Politik. Universitätsverlag Osnabrück: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2010, S. 91-117.
  • Elisabeth Conradi: Was ist Achtsamkeit? In: Orientierung. Fachzeitschrift der Behindertenhilfe. Heft 3, August 2008, S. 1-4.
  • Elisabeth Conradi: Take Care. Grundlagen einer Ethik der Achtsamkeit, Frankfurt am Main 2001.
  • Elisabeth Conradi: Kosmopolitische Zivilgesellschaft. Wandel zur Weltgesellschaft durch gelingendes Handeln. Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag 2011.

9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?

  • The relationship between the care ethics of attentiveness as a professional ethics (of nurses, social workers, politicians, therapists, assistants etc) and the more comprehensive (philosophical) concept should be reflected in an interdisciplinary dialog between philosophy and pedagogy, social work education and nursing science, disability studies and medical ethics, theology and political science.
  • The secularity of care ethics could be discussed: How can forgiveness be thought in a secular conception (see Walker: Moral repair 2006)? How does the care ethics of attentiveness differ from buddhist meditation?
  • The political importance of care ethics (and its relevance for political theory) should be discussed more intense in an interdisciplinary dialog. Keywords are: citizenship, global communities, global responsibility, state sovereignty, migration, security, forgiveness and restorative justice, responsibility and care for a postcolonial work, peace, poverty (See above point 7: Held, Walker, Koggel).
  • Care ethics should investigate in thinking about (possible ways of and theoretical approaches to) social transformation: How can the practice of care (and care-takers as well as care-givers) increase more respect in society? How to organize (public) need interpretation?
  • Can care ethics offer a concept of (the structure and institutionalisation and politics of) help, support, empowerment, need interpretation (etc.) beyond and beside economic (as well as state-controlled) interests?
  • To what kind of (participative) politics leads the care ethics of attentiveness?

10. Our ambition is to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

It would be important to also take into account positions from African colleagues, for example the work of H. Odera Oruka or more contemporary for example the thoughts of Fainos Mangena.

Margaret Urban Walker

Since 2002, Margaret Urban Walker PhD is Professor of Philosophy and Lincoln Professor of Ethics at Arizona State University, where she received ASU’s Defining Edge Research in the Humanities Award in 2007. She was a member of the Philosophy Department at Fordham University from 1974-2002. She also taught at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium; Washington University at St. Louis; and University of South Florida, where she held visiting appointments. In 2002, she returned to the Catholic University of Leuven as the first woman to hold the Cardinal Mercier Chair in Philosophy. She enjoyed a Laurance S. Rockefeller Fellowship at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values in 2003-2004, and was honored to be Marquette’s Aquinas Lecturer in 2010.

1. Where are you working at this moment?

I am a member of the Philosophy Faculty of the School of Historical, Philosophical, & Religious Studies at Arizona State University.

2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?

My earlier research in moral philosophy developed a critical approach to ethical theory that identified impacts of social differences on moral thinking, including philosophical theories of morality. The ethics of care was a leader in demonstrating how concerns about care work and those who need it and do are rendered invisible or marginal in ethics. My current work focuses on the repair of moral relations in the aftermath of wrongdoing, with special attention to political violence and post-conflict justice and repair. The dignity of victims of violence requires multiple forms of caring attention to address material, psychological, social, and moral needs.

3. How did you get involved into the ethics of care?

The ethics of care played a tremendous role for me in showing how feminist ethics could contribute both a unique critique of gender bias and an independent and powerful vision of moral life, agency, and responsibility.

4. How would you define ethics of care?

I believe an ethic of care examines closely the implications of human dependency, vulnerability, and interdependence, and insists on four goods: responsiveness to human needs; responsibility and competence in meeting needs; valuing connection and relationship itself; and valuing of caring labor and activities.

5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?

That contributions to human well-being and aspects of human well-being will be absent in moral theory if those who are socially identified with those aspects of life lack voice, social respect, and political agency.

6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?

I had an opportunity to take a seminar with psychologist Carol Gilligan in the 1980s. I admired the work of Sara Ruddick, Joan Tronto, Selma Sevenhuijsen, Virginia Held, Annette Baier, Eva Kittay, and others, and learned from their work, and in some cases, from them personally. Through collaborations with Marian Verkerk at the Center for the Ethics of Care at the University Medical Center, Groningen, I have seen the dynamic role care ethics can play in bioethics.

7. What works in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?

My favorite is Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care (Routledge, 1993), because from the outset it treats care ethics as a social and political perspective that raises questions of citizenship, solidarity, and equality. I have taught the book many times.

8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?

My book ‘Moral Understandings: A Feminist Study in Ethics’, 2nd Edition (Oxford University Press, 2007), shows the consequences of the intertwining of moral and social positions, so that ethics represents only the positions of those with relative privilege. In ‘Moral contexts’ (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), my essay ‘Seeing Power in Morality’ is deeply influenced by care ethics. My most recent work on moral repair and reparations, ‘Moral Repair: Reconstructing Moral Relations after Wrongdoing’ (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and ‘What is Reparative Justice?’ (Marquette University Press, 2010) explore the distinctive moral vulnerabilities of those subject to violence and oppression.

9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?

Recognition and support for care work and care providers at the heart of social, political, economic, and biomedical policy, nationally and internationally, presents a huge field of issues.

10. Our ambition is to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?

Continue your good work. Show that the ethics of care speaks to fundamental moral issues in every area of public and private life.