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What is at the basis of moral action? An altruism acquired by the application of rule and principle? 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 What is at the basis of moral action? An altruism acquired by the application of rule and principle? 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. She discusses the extent to which we may truly care for plants, animals, or ideas. Finally, she proposes a realignment of education to encourage and reward not just rationality and trained intelligence, but also enhanced sensitivity in moral matters.


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What is at the basis of moral action? An altruism acquired by the application of rule and principle? 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 What is at the basis of moral action? An altruism acquired by the application of rule and principle? 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. She discusses the extent to which we may truly care for plants, animals, or ideas. Finally, she proposes a realignment of education to encourage and reward not just rationality and trained intelligence, but also enhanced sensitivity in moral matters.

30 review for Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    This is an oft cited (and criticized) book in Feminist Ethics. It is one of the earlier attempts to develop a theory of care (to contrast with the justice perspective). She shares in common with previous feminist ethicists a commitment to theorizing about real life (particularly women's lives), and she shares a feminist ontology that understands individuals as constituted by and through relation ("relational selves"). Noddings believes with others that a revaluation of care is necessary both in This is an oft cited (and criticized) book in Feminist Ethics. It is one of the earlier attempts to develop a theory of care (to contrast with the justice perspective). She shares in common with previous feminist ethicists a commitment to theorizing about real life (particularly women's lives), and she shares a feminist ontology that understands individuals as constituted by and through relation ("relational selves"). Noddings believes with others that a revaluation of care is necessary both in personal and public relationships, however she primarily focuses on the personal. Her paradigmatic case of caring-for is the mother/child relationship, but she includes teacher/student as well. As such her account of caring is primarily an account of an asymmetrical relationship. It is also a sentimentalist account--our obligations to care stem from our commitment to sustaining relationships and connectedness (reason is not a motivating, but may be a loosely guiding principle). 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. Buber famously identified two orientations towards this world: There is the I-it relationship in which the "it" is rationalized and instrumentalized for the I's use. (The It here can be a person, as well as idea, object, etc). It is the ordinary world of ordinary things. The second orientation (the "primary" one, in the sense that it lends the I-it relationship MEANING), is the I-You relationship. According to Buber this relationship, when it is entered into is wholly reciprocal, unmediated, essentially timeless/ahistorical. In other words it is essentially a transcendent relationship with a You. When we are engaged with the You, the You "fills our firmament." Another way of saying this is that nothing exists outside the I-You relationship when one is in the relationship. Noddings cites Buber amply, and yet she seems to miss fundamental features of his thinking, which could actually help to correct her own account. First, I believe she misses almost entirely the world of I-it, which is the background "reality" as it were, of the world. She wants to establish the I-You as the primary relationship because it is the most fundamentally caring. But Buber himself does not think we can sustain ourselves in an I-You capacity. We can, as it were, drink from its well and be nourished, but we cannot live on You alone. It is too all-engrossing of a relationship, and after all we have things like dishes to do and art to make. But Nodding takes just this engrossment as a central feature that cannot be gotten rid of (in fact she prefers 'engrossment' with the other to 'empathy.' But engrossment is incredibly problematic. Most obviously it runs the risk of being too myopic, but it also leaves the one-caring liable (and perhaps even obligated) to sacrifice herself selflessly for the one cared-for. Buber's I-Thou relationship is predicated on reciprocity, and thus he thinks a true I-Thou relationship is remarkably rare, and thus all the more to be cherished. 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. Noddings is at pains to show that caring cannot be called complete unless the caring is recognized by the cared-for. This allows her to claim a thin notion of reciprocity, but it doesn't amount to much. How can infants truly "reciprocate"? Noddings' emphasis on unequal relationships prevents her from exploring a more robust notion of reciprocity, which is needed since the majority of our adult relationships are voluntary and more equalized. 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. She derives joy (this is the clever part) from an inversion of Sartre. Sartre believed that our existential aloneness leads to develop a (quasi-metaphysical) anxiety. 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. (Why this follows, I'm not sure). This experience of joy is supposed to replenish us to continue our acts of caring-for. First, I'm not sure you can derive joy purely from a natural fact of our existence such as relatedness. There are plenty of natural things that I don't take joy in. For instance,I have to take a shit sometimes, but that doesn't mean I relish it. Similarly, Noddings seems to be assuming that all care-givers (or most anyway) are actually GOOD and competent care-givers. But why should we assume that? Not everyone has children because they planned it, and some parents are just shitty parents. Some kids don't get the right care they need because their parents have to work 3 jobs to make ends meet, and some kids don't get the right care because their fathers are locked away in jail for non-violent crimes. In other words, bad caring happens all the time, and it's not clear to me that Noddings' happy-hoorah-probably-white-middle-class parenting happens for plenty of children. 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gea

    Nel Noddings worked in public schools for over two decades before obtaining her Ph.D. in educational theory and philosophy from Stanford University in 1975. She has written many books and is an important voice for feminine epistemology. Noddings establishes the foundation for an ‘ethic of care,’ which is expanded on through her term ‘Caring’ (with a capital ‘C’). Caring occurs: through the relationship between the one-caring and the cared-for; when the one-caring has a displacement of motivation Nel Noddings worked in public schools for over two decades before obtaining her Ph.D. in educational theory and philosophy from Stanford University in 1975. She has written many books and is an important voice for feminine epistemology. Noddings establishes the foundation for an ‘ethic of care,’ which is expanded on through her term ‘Caring’ (with a capital ‘C’). Caring occurs: through the relationship between the one-caring and the cared-for; when the one-caring has a displacement of motivation and is striving to be fully present with and truly meet the unique needs of the cared-for; and when the cared-for is open to receive the one-caring. The sensitive and trained intelligence of Caring allows for the cared-for to develop to his/her fullest potential and satisfies the one-caring through seeing this growth and development. Noddings shows how trained or completely logical learning is different from learning through Caring and highlights the importance of the latter. This is an important book for those interested in, education, feminine epistemology, and parenting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This is an early text in care ethics. It does have a few significant problems (parochialism and essentialism), but I'm looking forward to reading the later work of Noddings and other care ethicists. Some insights and applications from the first and last chapters remain worth reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Q Crain

    Most important book I own or have read. This is the philosophy/ethic one ought to live by.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Virtuella

    I am trying to read this book, but I think I will give up. 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. Pardon me, but if we don’t aim for some kind of intellectual growth, why then should children go to school at all? They may as well stay at home with their loving primary carers. Also, it got on my nerves that she talked as if all I am trying to read this book, but I think I will give up. 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. Pardon me, but if we don’t aim for some kind of intellectual growth, why then should children go to school at all? They may as well stay at home with their loving primary carers. Also, it got on my nerves that she talked as if all women were a) mothers and b) defined by motherhood. I have children, but "mother" is only one role among several that define me. That said, I did find quite a few things that I strongly agreed with, e.g. that ethics derived exclusively from principles, rules and rational discourse have significant limitations. On the other hand, only because they have limitations doesn’t mean these approaches are altogether useless. Furthermore, I don’t think the limitations can be overcome by replacing all rational discourse exclusively with the affective concept of caring. The problem with hers is that it’s a single-issue world view, which I always treat with scepticism. No doubt caring is an important dimension of human relationships, but I don’t think it’s the only or even the principal one. The asymmetrical relationship of one-caring and cared-for is really only suitable for particular relationships like parent/child. I think the relationships between independent adults even in an intimate relationship, let alone in a public or professional context, are better described in terms of cooperation, mutuality, solidarity, loyalty, responsibility, respect and, yes, fairness and justice. Likewise, I would contest that the impulse to be caring is the single core impulse of human existence. There are others, equally valid, for example the impulse to be productive and creative. Cynics would say the basic human impulse is self-preservation! I think it’s a huge problem with her concept that it seems to leave the entire area of public and political life outside moral considerations. If all ethical action is confined to concrete interpersonal relationships, how shall we tackle what the Latin American liberation theology calls “structural sin”: structures of racism, sexism, social injustice etc? These things are important! Finally, if this concept deserves any feminist label at all, it would be what Naomi Wolf calls “victim feminism.” Noddings may mention in passing that men can be caring, too, but she addresses the readers a “us, the mothers.” I think by and large most men will dismiss her concept as one that doesn’t 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-one’s-individuality-in-total-identification-with-the-other. I certainly don’t measure up to that, but I don’t accept the charge, and I don’t think it’s healthy and desirable for either the carer or the cared-for.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nick Klagge

    I appreciated this book immensely and was very close to giving it 5 stars. There were a couple of sections where it dragged, and I think it probably would have been even more compelling as a 150-page book than as a 200-page book. I got interested in care ethics from reading about (my hero) Jane Addams and her ethical perspectives, which are a sort of precursor. This book nails what seems to me to be a very robust and compelling alternative to rules-based moral frameworks without degenerating int I appreciated this book immensely and was very close to giving it 5 stars. There were a couple of sections where it dragged, and I think it probably would have been even more compelling as a 150-page book than as a 200-page book. I got interested in care ethics from reading about (my hero) Jane Addams and her ethical perspectives, which are a sort of precursor. 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. This is too brief a space to give her framework its due, but at heart, she begins with the fundamental caring relationship between mother and child. She then extends this and related types of "natural caring" into the realm of "ethical caring", meaning situations with the potential for caring where it does not necessarily come instinctively to us. She bridges this gap by describing an individual caring for his or her own "ethical self", the realistic but aspirational ideal of oneself as one-caring. This seems to address the perceived conflict that Carol Gilligan discusses at length between "selfishness" and "giving". 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. There is no call to "love everyone" or to care for anonymous people on the other side of the world as much as for one's own family and immediate community. My favorite part of this book was the section on perceptions of everyday routines, which really struck a chord with me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jerrod

    Stimulating look at how ethics are shaped by relationships and power positions, though the theory could be construed as being quite relativistic. Given the books focus on teaching and parenting, the ethical focus is on subordinates and superiors. This is fine as far as it goes, but many relationships in contemporary society are, to a large degree, with anonymous others at the checkout line or the stop light, and those that are not anonymous are between persons of equal status: co-workers (exclud Stimulating look at how ethics are shaped by relationships and power positions, though the theory could be construed as being quite relativistic. Given the books focus on teaching and parenting, the ethical focus is on subordinates and superiors. This is fine as far as it goes, but many relationships in contemporary society are, to a large degree, with anonymous others at the checkout line or the stop light, and those that are not anonymous are between persons of equal status: co-workers (excluding bosses), spouses/significant others, and friends. While Noddings discusses our duty to "care for" diminishes with the other's distance (physically and relationally) from us, I don't think she does a good job of extending her theory of ethics based on caring to the relationships between equals. 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. While I don't take this as a general theory of ethics, it has changed the way I view my relationships with others.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Stein

    There's a lot that can be said about Noddings, and that should be said. She's definitely doing a different kind of ethics than what most of us are used to. It's not heavily analytic. It's explicitly not connected to Kant or Aristotle, which is a nice change of pace. Noddings is an interesting ethicist, and though her theory of ethics with impact bias is interesting, it is worth considering the approach that she's taking in assessing the value of the action, and there should be a conversation abou There's a lot that can be said about Noddings, and that should be said. She's definitely doing a different kind of ethics than what most of us are used to. It's not heavily analytic. It's explicitly not connected to Kant or Aristotle, which is a nice change of pace. Noddings is an interesting ethicist, and though her theory of ethics with impact bias is interesting, it is worth considering the approach that she's taking in assessing the value of the action, and there should be a conversation about the way in which we regard "objective" ethics, in contrast to biased ethics. Does caring make the act better? Noddings seems to think so, and while she didn't convince me, she did demonstrate that we need a better assessment of the question.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    This shouldn't be shocking, but as an educator noddings is more interested in education than in ethical theory. Because of this the final chapter, the one on education, is the best section. I also enjoy her conception of reorganizing schools for caring education, though I think that her vision not possible in some subject areas at some levels. Even though her vision is difficult to impossible in those areas, it is very similar in other subject areas to modern methods, though I am not sure if tha This shouldn't be shocking, but as an educator noddings is more interested in education than in ethical theory. Because of this the final chapter, the one on education, is the best section. I also enjoy her conception of reorganizing schools for caring education, though I think that her vision not possible in some subject areas at some levels. Even though her vision is difficult to impossible in those areas, it is very similar in other subject areas to modern methods, though I am not sure if that is due to her influence or not.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mmelbi

    Let say this book is the first phase of a new philosophy, the philosophy of care, it is the first phase because to describe the book is very fair to say, it is a descriptive analysis of the philosophy of care; the caring act, the caring relation, and ethics. I liked the book especially after I read "Caring to know", then, it was clear to me that Noddings provided the basis of a new humanitarian field. The care theory starts with an ideal home and moves outward with a sense of justice.

  11. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    interesting view of philosophy and ethics from a female perspective. according to noddings, to care is to be human and each of our decisions, if we are to be ethical, needs to be framed by how we care for others. nice critique of more esoteric writing by male philosophers(kant, mill, etc.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Stand

    This is a MUST READ book, particularly for those working with young people, such as teachers or youth workers. This book is very challenging in how education is currently delivered and how it would be best delivered. Echoes of Buber's 'I-Thou' theology throughout Nodding's musings. LOVE THIS!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ron Christiansen

    Read in a BYU class on education--an interesting professor who suggested, quite scandalously at BYU that hometeaching worked against caring.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Great read. Made me really think about caring.

  15. 5 out of 5

    M. Crabtree

    One of my favorite education books...I really liked her approach to education and appreciated her pointing out of ways that women can be uniquely strong as teachers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    This book really gets your mind thinking about what it means to connect soul to soul to another human being.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Merve Tokmakçıoğlu

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Burrell

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jolanda

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Love Malundo

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maia

  23. 5 out of 5

    carlyrl78

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Kulik

  25. 5 out of 5

    JoXn

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cori Jenkins

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Varga

  29. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

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