Review Sheet: Chapt. 1: The Moral Point of View Moral concerns are unavoidable in life. Ethics

Ch. 10 – The Ethics of Diversity – Gender

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Ch. 10 – The Ethics of Diversity – Gender
The history of ethical thinking has needed rethinking from a feminine and feminist perspective:

  • Women’s voices have been excluded from the canon.

  • Autonomous man – an ethics of strangers, odd from a feminist perspective.

  • Social contract theory – disadvantages women, glue of society is not contract but family

  • Impartiality and Universality – invalidates moral priority of intimate relationships

  • Absence of embodiment res cogitans (Descartes) not embodied beings

Consider Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development:

Preconventional morality: early childhood:

  • Stage One: desire to avoid punishment

  • Stage Two: Tit for tat

Conventional morality: adolescence and adulthood

  • Stage three: Good boy/ nice girl orientation

  • Stage four: Rule following

Post conventional morality: rarely reached

Carol Gilligan Introduces the Ethics of Care:

  • Carol Gilligan – began research on moral development with draft resisters then shifted to female subjects on the subject of abortion when the draft ended in 1973.

  • Metaphor of voice – instead of theory or perspective.

  • Women’s voices didn’t fit Kohlberg’s stages: care rather than justice

  • Women emerge as more concerned about relationships, emotional connectedness and caregiving. Voice varies internally regarding masculine and feminine approaches to morality, as well as between the genders.

Gilligan claims the foundations of ethics must be reconsidered:

  • Ethics as conversation: conversation not argument.

  • Inclusive conversation: women and people of color need to be involved.

  • New issues emerge: domestic violence, child abuse, family leave, responsibilities toward elderly parents.

  • Caution against using morality to justify violence: honor, domestic violence, suppression.

Caring has some similarity to act utilitarianism:

  • Both are consequentialist and address pleasures and pains.

  • Care ethic calculates differently:

  1. Extent to which people might be hurt by a particular decision

  2. Degree to which a particular decision might diminish the sense of connectedness among participants of the situation.

  • Emotions more important.

There is a difference between feminine and feminist ethics:

  • Feminine ethics: emphasize women’s moral voices, often an ethics of care, following Gilligan.

  • Feminist ethics focuses on women’s oppression and argues for policies to rectify past injustices.

  • Power and inequality stressed.

  • Conditions for feminist ethics from Alison Jagger:

  1. Sensitive to gender inequalities

  2. Understand individual actions in the context of broader social practices.

  3. Provide guidance on issues traditionally seen as private, e.g., personal relationships and family.

  4. Take the moral experience of women seriously

Feminist ethics stresses the inclusion of moral concern in the private as well as public realm.

  • Feminist ethics emphasizes moral scrutiny in the private realm generally confined to women, children persons or color and persons with disabilities.

  • Family issues – equal treatment of men and women at home, in workplace.

  • Power issues: patriarchy, rape, reproductive freedom, sexism in language, harassment, pornography, poverty.

Rethinking diversity with regard to gender has opened new avenues of thought beyond women’s issues and into the domain of transgender issues.

  • Reconsider the notion of gender identity and sexual orientation and domination entailed.

  • Reconsider “the natural.”

  • Reconsider dichotomous thinking: male/female

  • Emergence of transgender theory.

Ch 11 – The Ethics of Diversity: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Moral Theory
Increasing interest in diversity in the past two decades

  • Fundamental question: what place, if any, do race, ethnicity, and culture have in moral theory?

The Identity Argument

  • Minority Rights

  • The Virtues Necessary for Living Well in a Diverse Society

The basic claim of the identity argument is that race, ethnicity, and culture are central to moral identity

Impartiality and Particularity

  • The premise of modern moral theory has been that the moral agent ought to be impartial

    • Utilitarianism: The Impartial Calculator

    • Deontology: Acting according to the duty of any rational agent

      • See especially Alasdair MacIntyre, “How the Moral Agent Became a Ghost.”

Godwin’s Choice: Which to choose to rescue in a burning building?

  • The Bishop of Cambray or his chambermaid?

  • The Bishop of Cambray or your mother?

  • “Suppose the valet had been my brother, my father, or my benefactor. This would not alter the truth of the proposition. The life of Fenelon would still be more valuable than that of the valet; and justice, pure, unadulterated justice, would still have preferred that which was most valuable. Justice would have taught me to save the life of Fenelon [the Bishop of Cambray] at the expense of the other. What magic is there in the pronoun "my," that should justify us in overturning the decisions of impartial truth? My brother or my father may be a fool or a profligate, malicious, lying or dishonest. If they be, of what consequence is it that they are mine?”

  • --Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Chapter 2

  • Godwin’s dilemma poses two distinct questions to us:

    • Behavior: What should I do?

    • Motivation: Why should I do it?

Sometimes what is morally required in a situation is acting out of a particular moral motivation

    • e.g., visiting a sick friend.

    • Michael Stocker has argued that modern moral theory has a kind of “schizophrenia,” a split between motivation and justification

    • Bernard Williams has pointed out the problem of “one motivation too many”

Impartiality and Behavior

  • Considerations of rights establish the boundaries within which considerations of partiality may play a role:

    • In acting on the basis of particularity, people may not violate rights.

  • Thus, in Godwin’s example, we should not violate someone’s right to be saved

  • Critics of impartiality often claim that claims of impartiality often mask power relationships of dominance:

    • Impartiality is really just the partiality of the powerful.

Identity and Transparency

  • For the dominant group in a society, their particular identity is transparent, I.e., not perceived by them as a specific identity

    • Supermarket example

  • For non-dominant groups, their identity is always experienced as particular, as specific to them as members of a group.

The Identity Argument:

  • Premise 1 -What is morally right depends (at least in part) on one’s identity as a moral agent;

  • Premise 2 - One’s race (or ethnicity, or culture) is central to one’s identity as a moral agent;

  • Conclusion - Thus, what is morally right depends (at least in part) on that person’s race, ethnicity, or culture.

Analyzing the identity argument:

Premise 1:

  • What is morally right depends (at least in part) on one’s identity as a moral agent.

  • Kantians would argue that moral identity is purely rational, and that it does not involve any elements of particularity.

  • Supporters of this premise point to special obligations characteristic of particular cultures and ethnicities, e.g., placing a high value on family commitments.

Premise 2:

  • One’s race (or ethnicity, or culture) is central to one’s identity as a moral agent.

  • In order to evaluate this premise, we first must ask: What exactly do we mean by race, ethnicity, and culture


  • Race

    • Initially appears to be biological

    • Eventually is seen as socially constructed

  • Ethnicity

    • An individual’s identification with a particular cultural group to which they are usually biologically related

  • Culture

    • Set of beliefs, values and practices that define a group’s identity

Internalist and Externalist Accounts of Ethnic Identity:

  • Externalist accounts:

    • Ethnic identity is formed by certain external events, e.g., slavery, persecution, discrimination;

    • This even fits within utilitarianism

  • Internalist accounts:

  • Responses to the Identity Argument

    • Separatist—seeks to preserve identity by maintaining a separate existence.

      • May be:

    • Partial

    • Complete

    • Examples

    • Amish and Mennonites

    • Orthodox Jews

    • Acoma Pueblo

    • Supremacist – seeks power and superiority over all other groups.


  • -Seek power and superiority over all other groups.

  • -Approve Jim Crow laws in the United States, which tried to retain white supremacy.

Assimilationist and Integrationist--seek a common identity, the “melting pot.”

  • Predominant American metaphor: the melting pot.

  • Classic philosophical source: Richard Wasserstrom, “On Racism and Sexism.” Wasserstrom argues that race and gender should be no more significant than eye color.

  • Pluralist—preserves particularity in a shared framework, the “crazy quilt.”

  • Rejects ideal of impartiality

  • Seeks to preserve and strengthen group identity.

  • Sources:

    • Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference.

  • Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice

Pluralism and Multiculturalism

  • Principle of Understanding

    • We seek to understand other cultures before we pass judgment on them.

  • Principle of Tolerance

    • We recognize that there are important areas in which intelligent people of good will will in fact differ.

  • Principle of Standing Up to Evil

    • We recognize that at some points we must stand up against evil, even when it is outside of our own borders.

  • Principle of Fallibility

    • We recognize that, even with the best of intentions, our judgments may be flawed and mistake.

Minority Rights

  • Kymlicka, Liberalism, Community, and Culture (1989) and Multicultural Citizenship (1995)

  • Thesis: liberalism entails minority rights

Kymlicka’s Argument

  • Following Rawls, Kymlicka argues that the ability to develop and pursue a life plan is a very important good

  • One’s own culture is necessary for achieving that good

  • Many minority cultures need special protection if they are to continue to exist

  • Thus minority cultures must be given special protection so that all members of society have an equal opportunity to pursue a life plan.


  • Indigenous Peoples

  • Compensatory Justice

    • Backward-looking

    • Redress past harms

  • Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    • Language

    • Religion

    • Land

    • Self-determination

Formerly Enslaved Peoples

  • Do we owe a special debt to those who have been forcibly brought to our shores and enslaved?

  • To their descendants?

  • How is such a debt measured? Repaid?

Immigrant Minorities

Hate Crimes:

  • One way of providing special protection to groups that have been the object of persecution is to provide special legal sanctions against persecutory acts--in other words, against hate crimes

  • The Virtues Necessary for Living Well in a diverse society:

  • What special rights, if any, do immigrant minorities have if they have freely come to the United States in search of a better life?

    • Language

    • Support

Ch 12 – Conclusion: Applying Ethical Theories: Abortion, Capital Punishment, Euthanasia
Difficult moral issues:

  • Life and death decisions involved and all the difficult decisions that lie in-between

  • Case Studies:

  1. Abortion

  2. Euthanasia

  3. The Death Penalty


  • Morally relevant facts

  • Theories: Utilitarianism:

    • Pain of the fetus

    • Costs and benefits

  • Feminist Ethics:

    • Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy against her will

  • Rights theorists and Libertarians:

    • Autonomy and right of non-interference

  • Deontological concern for principle of respect for human life

    • Fetus is a person

    • Killing a person is wrong

  • Virtue Ethics


  • Morally relevant facts of the case

  • Libertarian: individual liberty and rights

  • Utilitarian: maximize overall utility

  • Deontological concerns: duty of self-love precludes suicide, justice

  • Religious traditions: suicide forbidden as an act of despair

  • Character: how address end of life care and decisions?

The Death Penalty:

  • Morally relevant facts

  • Deontologists: lex talionis vs proportionality and human decency

  • Character: honesty and self-awareness, compassion

  • Utilitarian: cost-benefit, deterrence

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