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Em(path)y

Michael Slote published “The Ethics of Care and Empathy” in 2007 and his work serves as an excellent example expanding on the theories of Gilligan and Noddings. I have chosen to reflect on Slotes work as he approaches an ethic of care in a slightly different way. Slote argues that care ethics do not provide a comprehensive account for morality, but to say that moral distinctions are heavily rooted in experience and sentiment. This statement might seem contradictory, so let me expand a bit. Gilligan and Noddings propose that caring covers morality in its entirety while Slote suggests that it is simply vital in considering ethics where tradition disregarded it. Identifying his work with that of Hutcheson and Hume, Slote classifies his ideas with the “moral sentimentalist” tradition. He determines that our ideas of right and wrong come from a caring or uncaring motive. Slote discusses how empathy is essential to this motive and is key to recognizing an obligaiton to care. This notion of empathy is a logical one in that it naturally brings about compassion which calls us to act with care. Slote distinguishes between two separate kinds of caring, which is important to consider when discussing his work. He states, “There is an intense personal caring toward people one knows, but there also can be a general humanitarian caring or concern about people one only knows about.” Recognizing that caring can be classified in different ways, contingent upon the situation and the individuals involved, creates a much more applicable and reasonable way of  approaching an ethic of care as it accounts for the different kinds of obligation we possess.

“Whether the moral life involves justice and caring or simply two kinds of caring, I think the caring ethicist will object to the idea of combining two such elements within a single theory or view. Good, moral, just, and caring people do not operate with or use some total theory in which considerations of justice and of caring are mentioned and somehow integrated. Rather, they go about their lives, sometimes dealing with issues of justice, sometimes being involved in caring relationships – alternatively, sometimes acting from humanitarian concerns and sometimes acting out of concern for the perceived needs of people they know. And there is no more integration than that” (Caring).

Slote, Michael A. Caring versus the Philosophers. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

Slote, Michael A. The Ethics of Care and Empathy. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.

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