Nel Noddings, Caring as relation and virtue in teaching - PhilPapers
Nell Noddings, Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education . positive relationship between caring and mental development is quite clear in the . Nel Noddings Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems . Oxford Relation, Virtue, and Relational Virtue: Three Concepts of Caring. But as Noddings herself acknowledges, it is not the theme of the ethics of caring as a variant of virtue ethics. Just as she describes caring as an ethics of relation as.
Equally, a situation may demand both justice and care or what I will call just-caring. She is equally critical of Nel Noddings whose approach rejects abstract rationality which prioritises justice and instead argues that care should be made central to any moral theory. Instead she argues that justice and care should be meshed together.
In discussing justice she automatically includes rights, equality and liberty whilst in talking about care she includes notions of relatedness, empathy and trust. As for the possibilities of an ethic of care making fundamental structural changes to society that would normally be ascribed to principles of justice she states: Held thus sees the potential for care ethics to provide a moral framework which can have application beyond intimate relations and which also addresses the concerns of justice.
Likewise, I am also interested in how society can reorientate itself to prioritise the concerns of feminist care ethics over the concerns of market relations and individual self-interest. However, I maintain that paying attention to the concerns of both justice and care does not necessarily entail having to integrate two opposing or conflicting moral standpoints.
Some ethics of care theorists are, as we have already stated, rightly critical of pure justice reasoning but it does not mean that justice is totally irrelevant to moral reasoning; though some, such as Noddings, and even Held, do insist that care should take priority.
Thus there is a danger here of conflating having to choose between opposing moral standpoints i. Thus being both just and caring should not lead to the blocking of moral clarity about what should be done, as Flanagan and Jackson suggest might sometimes be the case.
Virtue ethics, for example, entails individuals habituating an array of different excellences of character which might include both justice and caring without one having to switch between two opposing moral standpoints in order to exercise them both.
Rather one might exemplify a number of virtues in one action. However, I will return to discussing virtue ethics later. Care Ethics as a Comprehensive Abstract Moral Theory In contrast to Gilligan and Noddings who emphasise the particularity of care ethics Diemut Bubeck attempts to transform the disparate concepts and theories of care ethics into a comprehensive abstract moral theory.
The reason for this particular qualification, Bubeck argues, is firstly that an emotional bond need not exist in order for someone to give care to another. Secondly, acts which express an emotional bond such as that of friendship or love are not always care.
A caring act satisfies the needs or wants of the other that the other could not satisfy herself. The first problem with this argument is that while it may be the case that the act of caring does not require an emotional bond, without attachment between the giver and receiver of care, bad care-giving may result. I will return to this claim later.
Caring as relation and virtue in teaching
Moreover it is only through intimate social relations that we can cultivate the disposition to give care. In other words, such a disposition to care for another, and to see that as the appropriate and just response to a person in need, is first cultivated within family life and early education.
This argument is significant for a discussion of the family because the relationship between parents and between a parent and a child can be characterised as particular forms of friendship. A friend may be able to give many other things that a person cannot satisfy alone, such as emotional support.
If one is suffering with grief, a friend or family member may be able to share that grief and provide the kind of care and support that one could not possibly obtain alone.
One cannot talk things through with oneself very easily. Being able to talk a problem through entails someone else being able to cast a different perspective on the problem.
In fact, Bubeck does recognise that one cannot talk a problem through with oneself, yet she does not recognise friendship as a similar response to care. Instead, she distinguishes the act of talking things through as a form of care-giving from actual friendship.
However, in friendship one does not stop being a friend and become a carer to meet a certain need, such as talking through a problem, and then go back to being a friend when the need has passed. Otherwise friendship must necessarily lack meaning to that particular friend. Thus, care-giving is constitutive of, not separate from, true friendship.
A friend also goes beyond meeting basic needs and has concern for the flourishing of her friend. This understanding of friendship thus provides a motivation for acting to meet a need. The agent does not appeal to love or friendship but rather what the ethic of care tells him he should do. Bubeck thus attempts to universalise norms and rules of care. Yet, I think that if we do not distinguish between acts of care and other acts we can see that a similar disposition is required of a friend, a carer or a therapist which is applied and acted on in different ways according to the context.
Furthermore, if we develop and encourage certain characteristics which are empathetic, open and responsive to need and which are generous and open-handed as well as just then these characteristics can be applied beyond the intimate relations in which they are fostered to situations with strangers and other citizens, which is surely the aim of at least some ethic of care theorists.
Without the formation of character to be 7 caring, to be motivated to act in a caring way, then how will one know what sort of care is required by simply appealing to the rules of an ethic of care?
One of course does not have to love a stranger in order to provide them with care but one does need to cultivate certain dispositions and understand the importance of care in order to act in a caring way.
What I think Bubeck intends to address with this phrase are much more physical and material needs such as nutrition, the provision of mobility, the administering of medicines, and perhaps the provision of stimulation such as music, conversation etc. These are the sorts of needs which can be met by professional carers when one does not have family members or friends to provide them.
They are also the sorts of needs which characterise someone who is in a long term state of dependency. However, dependency is not an all or nothing state of being — we are not either dependent or independent consistently for periods of time.
For example, we may become temporarily ill and only be able to do certain things for ourselves or we may become emotionally distraught through loss or when things do not go well in our lives. In that situation we often need friends to sustain us, to reason for us and to listen to us. We may also be dependent on someone for only one thing. The point is we are not only dependent when we cannot do basic tasks for ourselves; dependency can be understood in a much more nuanced way.
We may encounter dependency intermittently on a daily basis but the degree to which we experience dependency will no doubt vary throughout our lives and from person to person. Therefore, she recognises that dependency is not a special case for certain persons but something which is experienced universally, if in different ways. However, Bubeck argues that care has been mystified in so many ways so that even many women believe that those they provide care to could not do certain things without their care, when in fact they could.
However, Bubeck argues that a woman may confuse her act of love, or the service she provides, for care because she thinks her husband would not eat properly if she did not cook for him.
Bubeck thus delineates care from other activities in order to firmly situate it in the realm of socially necessary labour; an overtly political argument. Hence cooking a meal for someone who is disabled in such a way that they are incapable of cooking a meal for themselves is understood as care, as distinguished from a wife cooking her able-bodied husband a meal because she sees that as part of her role as a wife.
However, while this provides a critical tool against confusing care with subservience it also confines care-giving to acts which simply meet the needs of those who cannot act for themselves or, in other words, those who are entirely dependent. In doing so it rules out the idea of care-giving as something which we might do for anyone, regardless of their need, out of a caring disposition. Her intent is obvious; that women can only be liberated from subservient roles when socially necessary labour is distinguished from acts of love and kindness and perhaps even 8 remunerated.
However, I believe this implies that care-giving is a subservient role. Bubeck goes on to argue that we need an ethics of justice as well as an ethics of care — in other words, a just distribution of the burden of care.
In doing so she seeks to bring care to a more abstract level and distribute it as a responsibility of everyone. She rejects the over-personalisation of care that the paradigm case is an intimate relationship, because she believes this is an over-sentimentalised view.
However, this coinciding does not recognise that love and friendship are often motivations for care-giving activity. Thus, in order to shield care-givers from exploitation, she believes we need to endorse an independent but complementary ethic of justice. In other words, one may seek to care for carers. She argues that, since Bubeck states that the ethic of care is not confined to intimate relations, there would be no obstacle to a citizen acting in such a way.
A caring service might assist families, usually female family members, who provide full time care to a dependent family member thus relieving some of the burden that full time caring places on women and others who give care. This, however, would not be going far enough for Bubeck who sees care labour as the responsibility of all and not just caring citizens.
The idea that we act on a set of caring principles which we can apply in any situation where there is need, neglects the need to give care in the right way. How a doctor gives care, and why she does, is different to why and how a parent gives care.
Even how a parent gives care differs from how a friend would give care to another friend. Though care is particular it is also something we owe to everyone, but that does not mean it is something abstract.
In fact, though we give care in different ways and for different reasons, we may still embody the same sorts of characteristics in each situation; characteristics like empathy, responsiveness to need, trust and sensitivity. Moreover, having these characteristics entails knowing how to appropriately exercise them in a given situation.
In defining care ethics as a set of abstract principles, as Bubeck tries to do, it becomes difficult to see how it can contribute to a better understanding of a good family or how wider society can be reoriented towards valuing care and the various characteristics which can be embodied care-giving. Even if it results in society valuing caring labour, even remunerating it, nevertheless it fences off care-giving as just another form of labour which does not require an emotional attachment and does not encourage caring characteristics outside of the activity of caring labour.
The strength of the care ethics approach is that its attention to particularity allows a nuanced understanding of different caring situations. Because all families are different, they have to respond to need and dependency in different ways.
With her narrow definition of care, Bubeck confines the dilemma of exploitation to only a small group of unpaid caregivers who are mothers of very young children or daughters or partners of seriously ill or disabled adults. With her broad definition of justice, if a carer is treated unjustly, including exploitation, this does not entail being harmed though this depends on how one defines harm. Her approach ignores the problem that Eva Feder Kittay points to when she says that all caregivers are vulnerable to exploitation: When paid, dependency work is rarely well paid.
This potential for exploitation, Kittay argues, is relevant for all kinds of social care including childcare; not just the care of the sick, elderly and disabled and not just family-based care.
Kittay also defines care in a much more multifaceted way than Bubeck. Does Kittay then provide a more nuanced view of care ethics which has greater application to family life, particularly from her perspective as a mother of a child with a disability? As a labour it is attending to someone who is in a condition of need.
This argument begins to address the problem I identified earlier that while it may be the case that the act of caring does not require an emotional bond, without attachment between the giver and receiver of care, bad care-giving may result.
Kittay claims that we must not only advocate for the needy, sick and otherwise disabled but we must also advocate for their carers who are similarly in a vulnerable position.
To not do so is, according to Kittay, unjust and uncaring. While the cared-for may be totally dependent on the carer, the carer may also be vulnerable; to those in whose interest it is to have the needy person cared for, and to the actions of the cared-for.
In terms of the family, feminists have long argued that women have been exploited as care-givers because it is in the interests of men to have their children cared for by their mothers. Equally the cared-for is often in a position where they too can be exploited by the carer. The more severe their need the more vulnerable they are to exploitation. A great deal of trust is bestowed on the carer that she will not abuse her power over the cared for. The greater the lack of voice the dependent has, the more opportunity there is to violate that trust.
Again, with regards to the family, children are in a particularly vulnerable position when parents have absolute authority over their children and children have no independent voice of their own, particularly young children.
A model of parental care which focussed purely on the basic needs of the child through appeal to an abstract set of norms and rules of care-giving does not seem like an ideal model of parenting. When we remember the care given to us by our parents when we were children, it is not being fed and clothed and provided with shelter that we remember as care-giving though obviously this is essential ; it is rather the attention paid to us when we hurt ourselves, when we suffer with grief, and the sharing of that pain with our parents and other care-givers that we remember as caring.
As Kittay rightly points out, care-giving is other-directed and so the virtuous carer is not accommodated in the liberal picture of the rationally self-interested actor.
The good of the family is not just an issue that a particular family should be concerned with. Rather, the well-being of families, in particular dependents, should be the concern of the wider society. What is most valuable in family life is the making and sustaining of highly particular relationships and through this, learning how to treat people in general with justice and care.
Thus in order to learn to share common goods and participate in ongoing relationships with fellow citizens, we might want to try to cultivate a caring society, beginning with the cultivation of a caring attitude within the family.
This attitude is necessary to provide the foundations for developing a bond between citizens; what we might call civic friendship, a concept more fully developed by Sybil Schwarzenbachwhere the good of our fellow citizens is understood as a part of our own good and the common goods of a community.
As Alasdair MacIntyre argues, the needs of the disabled and dependent, for example, should not be seen as a special minority interest but as the interest of all, integrated into the common conception of the good MacIntyre,p. We are all vulnerable to dependency throughout our lives and therefore we must all be concerned with how the needs of those who are dependent are met, whether we have developed a close bond with them or not.
The next section, therefore, will explore some of the ideas of the Aristotelian tradition in which Alasdair MacIntyre is situated, paying particular attention to the Aristotelian conception of the good life, the idea of a common good or goods, and how these ideas help, if at all, to build a better understanding of what makes a flourishing family life.
Integrating Care Ethics and Virtue Ethics In this section I will be asking how, if at all, the insights of the ethics of care on the family can be integrated into Aristotelian virtue ethics in order to begin to formulate an account of familial flourishing. This relatively new approach provides an alternative to the abstract, rights-based, theories of justice that have tended to dominate Western thought in the modern era and which come from predominantly male thinkers, blind to traditionally female concerns.
However, she concludes that many who write on care ethics conceive of care as of equal conceptual importance to justice, rights and utility or preference satisfaction, seeking to integrate, and sometimes reconceptualise, these other aspects of moral theory with care ethics. Slote claims that many care ethicists object to virtue ethics on the grounds that it sees moral value as residing in individual traits or virtues rather than in relationshipsp.
Yet this seems contentious. The Aristotelian tradition of virtue ethics sees relationships with others as essential to fostering and exercising virtues. While virtues are attributes or character traits of a human being which are not reducible to their actualisation, a human being is not born virtuous, though all have the potentiality, and can only become so by repetition of virtuous activity until he or she becomes habituated to that activity. If we mean something which contributes to the flourishing life, then there is moral value in philia friendship.
According to Aristotle happiness or flourishing consists in activity: Thus in my view virtues are only of moral value to the human life when they are exercised through action in relation to particular others. Alasdair MacIntyre, in particular, is concerned with the virtues of particular human practices and argues that a practice is the arena in which virtues are fostered and exercised MacIntyre, However, this is not to say that virtues are only exercised within practices.
Indeed, as MacIntyre himself points out, Aristotle often, though not always, refers to some well-defined social practice when speaking of human excellence. One major difference is that goods internal to a practice are not the same as the ultimate good of human being, i. However, they are teleologically ordered in the same way so that the ends of a practice are pursued for their own sake as good in themselves. The important point here is that practices are co-operative and practitioners pursue common ends which are not just pursued for the sake of the individual.
Nel Noddings, the ethics of care and education
Practitioners are not, in the liberal sense, co-operating for their mutual self-interest but because they aim at genuinely common goods. I want to claim that family life can be such a practice because it has common ends which are not simply the aggregation of individual ends. Instead family life seeks to transform individual desires to care about ends which are good in themselves and not just the satisfaction of self- interestedness.
Thus the flourishing of family life consists in the flourishing of its members qua family members. For children this entails being educated into the virtues and thus the development of their character. For adults this entails reasoning and acting as carers for each other but most importantly for those children2.
Virtue ethics and an ethics of care: complementary or in conflict? | Thomas | Eidos
However, there is also something else here — motivational displacement. The carer thus responds to the cared-for in ways that are, hopefully, helpful. Caring involves connection between the carer and the cared-for and a degree of reciprocity; that is to say that both gain from the encounter in different ways and both give.
A caring encounter, thus, has three elements according to Nel Noddings: Caring-about and caring-for Nel Noddings helpfully, also, highlights the distinction between caring-for and caring-about.
Thus far, we have been looking largely at caring-for — face-to-face encounters in which one person cares directly for another. Caring-about is something more general — and takes us more into the public realm. We may be concerned about the suffering of those in poor countries and wish to do something about it such as giving to a development charity.
One assents with just so much enthusiasm. However, in her later works Nel Noddings has argued that caring-about needs more attention. We learn first what it means to be cared-for. This caring-about, Noddings argues, is almost certainly the foundation for our sense of justice. The key, central to care theory, is this: Although the preferred form of caring is cared-for, caring-about can help in establishing, maintaining, and enhancing it. Those who care about others in the justice sense must keep in mind that the objective is to ensure that caring actually occurs.
Caring-about is empty if it does not culminate in caring relations. As well as being an important feature of our sense of justice, it also contributes to the cultivation of social capital. We learn to care-about, according to Nel Noddings, through our experience of being cared-for. Caring, schooling and education Nel Noddings sees education in its widest sense as being central to the cultivation of caring in society. Given the above, it is not surprising that she places a special emphasis on the home as a site for educational encounter.
Indeed, she views the home as the primary educator and argues for the re-orientation of social policy to this end. This is not to sideline the role of schools but simply to recognize just what the home contributes to the development of children and young people. As soon as we view the home as the primary educator two major things follow in terms of social policy.
Both of these recommendations have far reaching consequences. For example, in the case of the first, while some governments have attempted to ensure that there are something like adequate material resources in homes where there are children, there is little evidence of policymakers seriously grappling with how attentive love might be fostered.
Similarly, the question of education for home life is not normally addressed in anything like an adequate form. Some attention is paid to personal, social and life education — but it generally remains woefully inadequate when set against the demands of care theory. A further significant element here is the direction of a great deal of educational philosophy and theory.
While it is possible to see what place education for home life might have in this and the extent to which caring-for is linked to the cultivation of caring-about the way in which education is often discussed in terms of public life can be seen as not taking full account of what might be needed for personal flourishing.
This has far reaching consequences and takes us into the arena of informal education — and the appreciation and facility to move beyond understandings of education that are centred around notions such as curriculum into more conversational and incidental forms. Modelling, dialogue, practice and confirmation Nel Noddings has argued that education from the care perspective has four key components: Within a care perspective, not unexpectedly, educators are concerned with the growth of people as carers and cared-fors.
Unlike cognitive developmentalists, for example, they are not primarily interested in moral reasoning although there is a recognition that reasoning is important. Educators have to show in their behaviour what it means to care. The intent is to engage people in dialogue about caring. In addition, it is also important to talk directly about, and explore, our caring — as it can be manifested in very different ways.
It can, thus help people to critique and better understand their own relationships and practice.
In other words, it allows us to evaluate our attempts to care: Furthermore, and crucially, dialogue contributes to the growth of cared-fors. This particular component, it is suggested, sets caring apart from other approaches to moral education. In making her case Nel Noddings draws particularly on the work of Martin Buber. He describes confirmation as an act of affirming and encouraging the best in others see Between Man and Man.
When we confirm someone, we identify a better self and encourage its development. To do this we must know the other reasonably well. Otherwise we cannot see what the other is really striving for, what ideal he or she may long to make real. Formulas and slogans have no place in confirmation. Rather we recognize something admirable, or at least acceptable, struggling to emerge in each person we encounter. The goal or attribute must be seen as worthy both by the person trying to achieve it and by us.
We do not confirm people in ways we judge to be wrong. The latter is needed as we need knowledge of the other op. Caring and ethical theory Nel Noddings suggests that neither utilitarianism making decisions on the basis of anticipated consequences nor deontology principled reasoning can provide a proper understanding of the way women approached ethical questions and concerns.
Natural caring, such as that of a mother for a child, according to Nel Noddings, comes before ethical caring and is preferable to it. Ethical caring, the relation in which we do meet the other morally… [arises]… out of natural caring — that relation in which we respond as one-caring out of love or natural inclination.
It is that condition toward which we long and strive, and it is our longing for caring — to be in that special relationship — that provides the motivation for us to be moral.
We want to be moral in order to remain in the caring relation and to enhance the ideal of ourselves as one-caring. We do not have to construct elaborate rationales to explain why human beings ought to treat one another as positively as our situation permits.
Ethical life is not separate from and alien to the physical world. Because we human beings are in the world, not mere spectators watching from outside it, our social instincts and the reflective elaboration of them are also in the world.
Pragmatists and care theorists agree on this. This means that some of the key questions and issues about her approach are signposted by her. Some might view the emphasis on caring especially in the context of formal education as both presenting a range of potential conflicts with professional frames of reference and as possibly patronizing. In the case of the former, there has been a general movement away from more affective and expressive language to describe the tasks that teachers and other welfare professionals undertake.
A parallel example here has been the retreat from the language of friendship in education.