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Why Care? On motivation in care ethics

22 January 2009

PhD ceremony: K.E. Gardiner, 14.45 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Thesis: Why Care? On motivation in care ethics

Promotor(s): prof.dr. R.W. Boomkens

Faculty: Philosophy


Just how care moves us is the subject of Katherine Gardiner’s thesis. Gardiner wants to know how care moves us – or in philosophical terms, how it motivates us. She describes caring as a morally ‘necessary’ activity, which means that we cannot escape responding to the care appeal. However, Gardiner uses the example of ‘Pim’, who cannot care and feels really bad about it - not because he is incapable of caring, but who just can’t. She reviews several versions of care ethics that might persuade him to care, containing concepts like ‘engrossment’, ‘responsibility’, ‘solidarity’, ‘virtue’ and ‘reason’. According to Gardiner, none will do, because they are not compelling enough. She concludes that we need to understand how morality has effect, how it works. Christine Korsgaard’s concept of ‘normativity’ does just this. Korsgaard makes necessary links between making moral decisions and having an identity and being human and argues that acting contrary to any of these will make one “feel worse than death”. Caring for and about others is an important human activity and for some people is a crucial part of their practical identity. Without Korsgaard, we would have to reject Pim as a moral deviant (someone insensible to moral reason); with Korsgaard we can understand Pim’s pain, according to Gardiner.  


Last modified:15 September 2017 3.38 p.m.

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