Carol Gilligan: interpretation of “Feminine Ethics”
To start with a few words should be said about Carol Gilligan as a prominent writer. Nowadays this woman is considered to be one of the most prominent psychologists in the United States and in the world. The author of the “feminine ethics” was born in New York in 1936. Her career as a future psychologist started with the presenting of doctoral thesis in the Harvard University in 1964. For a decade she was working with the great theorist of moral development, Lawrence Kohlberg, but then she began criticize his works. In her famous book “In a different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development” (1982) Gilligan presents a revolutionary idea, she gives women rights to choose and she associates them with care and in some cases with motherhood.
Still there were some reasons why Gilligan began to criticize Lawrence Kohlberg’s work. Firstly, she considered him to have rather narrow approach to the problem of moral values. Secondly, Lawrence Kohlberg examined only men’s moral principles and paid no attention to women’s feeling and in such way Kohlberg showed “biased opinion against women” (). Thirdly, Gilligan felt that women should have voice and she wanted to present a controversial approach to women’s rights and moral values. Fourthly, Kohlberg in his work considered men’s rights and rules to be at the higher stage than women’s ones in “terms of influence on human relationship ()”.
Lawrence Kohlberg was not the only scientist whose works gave Gilligan ground for her future work. While discussing women’s moral senses Sigmund Freud, stressed that they are underdeveloped, because of women’s dependence upon their mothers (). Another famous moralist and theorist, Erik Erickson believed that the process of women’s development is successful only in case of separation from the mother and the family. Thus, the board schools for ladies are a good possibility for a young lady to develop moral senses. Still, Erickson thought that if a woman did not come over the process of self-development she would be lacking some major senses which make her a real woman. ()
Thus, criticizing the above mentioned theories Gilligan understood that her goal was to present a new approach to the women’s moral senses. Her theory comprises three aspects of women’s moral development: selfish, social and principled morality. According to Gilligan “Women must learn to deal to their own interests and to the interests of others” ().
The above-mentioned theory has laid the basis for the Gilligan’s Ethics of Care with to
At Level One, t he self is the s ole object of a woman’s concern. This self is a beleaguered self: a powerless and disappointed self, s o afraid of being hurt that it prefers isolation to connectedness. As one w o man in Gilligan’s abortion study asserted, this is a self that wants above all to survive: Ithink survival is one of the first things in life that people fight for. I think it is the m ost imp ortant thing, m ore important than stealing. Stealing might be wrong, but if you have to steal to survive yourself or even kill, that is what y ou should do. . . . Preservation of oneself, I think, is the most i mportant thi ng. It c omes before an ythi n g in life.17, No wonder, then, that some of Gilligan’s subjects initially regarded a baby as someone who would hel p t hem survive by loving them. How-ever, as these women str u g gled thr ough t heir abortion decisio ns, many of t hem concluded that a baby, no less than the mselves, is a vulnerable 86 CHAPTER 5 CAROL GILLIGAN’S ETHI CS OF CARE 87 person i n need of love. Gradually, they began to reinterpret their selfinterest as selfishness. So, for example, a seventeen-year-old, who at first wante d to carry her baby to term to assuage her loneliness, finally decided that it would be wrong for her t o d o so because she did not have the means to take care of a baby: W hat I want to do is to have the bab y, but what I feel I should do, which is what I need to do, is have an abortion right now, because so meti mes what you want isn’t ri g ht. Sometimes w hat is necessary comes before w hat you want, because it mi g ht not always lead to the rig ht thin g.’ 8 Like this seventeen-year-old, a n y woman who makes the tra nsition from “wish” to “necessity”—that is, from “the `selfishness’ of willful decision” to “the `responsibility’ of m oral choice”19—will reach Level Two of m oral devel opment. W hat m otivates a woman to move from Level One to Level Two is a desire to esta blish con nections with others and to partici pate i n social life. In many ways, the Level Two woman is the conve ntional, nurturant woman who equates goodness with self-sacrifice and w ho tries to s ubj u gate her wants to t hose of other peo ple. I n e xtreme cases, such a wo man comes to believe that it is always “selfish” for her t o do w hat s he wants. In Gilliga n’s abortion study, for example, o ne w o man who wanted t o continue her pregnanc y was being pressured b y her l o ver t o terminate it. Because this woman wanted both the baby a nd her lover’s approval, she found herself in a moral “no-win” situation. On t he o ne han d, aborting t he fetus would be “selfis h.” S he woul d there b y secure one of her wants, na mely, her lover’s appr o val. On t he other hand, not abortin g the fetus w o uld als o be “selfis h.” S he would there b y secure another of her wants, namely, a baby. The woman reasoned that n o matter what she decide d to do, she would h urt so meone: either her l over or her fetus. I n t he end, t he woman decided to have t he aborti o n, co nsoli ng herself that it was not really her decision, but her lover’s. Because the w oman resente d her lover’s “decision,” how-ever, her resentment gradually tur ned t o anger, souring the ver y relationshi p for which s he had sacrifice d her child.’ The m oral of Gilligan’s anecdote is that a w o man can s uppress her wants only s o long before she reaches a destructive boiling point. To avoid bec o ming a resentful, a ngry, even hateful person, a woman needs to push beyond Level Two t o Level T hree of m oral de velopment, w here s he will learn how to care for herself as well as for others. As a woman moves to Level T hree, the decisio n t o a b ort, for example, be-comes a com plex choice she must make about how best to care for the fetus, herself, a nd anyone likely t o be dee ply affected b y her decision. O ne of the women in Gilligan’s study explains her decision to have an abortion as just such a c hoice: I would not be doin g m yself or the child or the world any kind of favor having this chil d. I don’t need to pay off m y i maginary debts to t he world t hrough t his child, and I don’t thin k t hat it is right to bri n g a chil d i nto the worl d and use it for that purpose.21 Gilligan c haracterizes the move from Level Two to Level Three as a transition from goodness to truth. A w o man moves from pleasing others— being the conventionally good, alwa ys self-sacrificing woman—to recognizing her own nee ds as part of an y relatio nship. I n sum, a woman attains m oral maturity w hen she stops o p p osing her needs in fav or of others’, sim ultaneously recognizing the falseness of this polarity and the truth of her and others’ interconnectedness. If we com pare Gilligan’s account of women’s m oral devel opment wit h Kohlberg’s account of human m oral devel opment, we ca n begin t o appreciate why she thinks his account is really one that describes men’s m oral devel opment. A “formal logic of fairness” informs Kohlberg’s mode of reasoning and style of discourse; his scale structures m oral phenomena in terms of a set of rig hts and r ules. I n contrast, a “ps ycho-lo gical logic of relationships” informs Gilligan’s mode of reasoni ng and style of discourse; her scale structures m oral phenomena in terms of a set of res ponsibilities and c o n nections.22 To be sure, Gilliga n’s scale is no m ore a scale of h uman m oral development t han is Kohlberg’s. Far from de n ying this fact, howe ver, Gilligan i nstead suggests that students of m oral development shoul d not expect men and w o men to achieve m oral perso n h o o d in precisel y the same wa y. Rather, researchers sh o uld be attenti ve to t he different ways i n which men and women de-scribe the begin nin gs and endings of their distinctive m oral journeys, viewing them as alternative wa ys to achieve t he goals of a m orality that ultimatel y requires bot h rights and res ponsibilities.23 In her m ost recent w ork, Mapping the Moral Domain, Gilliga n further develops the positi o n she i ntr oduce d in In a Different Voice.24 Several recent studies of a dolescents’ m oral development indicate that by the age of ele ven, m ost childre n are able to use either a justice approach or a care approac h to solve a m oral problem. The y can, in other 88 CHAPTER 5 CAROL GILLIGAN’S ETHI CS OF CARE 89 wor ds, speak the language of bot h rights and res ponsibilities. The fact that a child favors one of these languages over the other in everyday speech is not, howe ver, a clear sign that s/he is using his/her preferred m oral language. O n the c ontrary, it may merely be a sign that s/he wis hes to use whatever m oral language his/her peers favor. For ex-am ple, in one dual-sexed high school, where the justice perspective pre-dominated among boys and girls ali ke, “students of b oth sexes tended to characterize care-foc used solutions or inclusive problem-solving strategies as utopian or o utdate d; one st u dent linked them with impractical Sunda y school teachings, another with the out w orn philos ophy of `hippies. ‘” Presumably, students in the school who voiced care strategies would encounter negative reactions from their peers and even be rejected as definitely not “cool.” Rather than being disheartene d by this adolescent behavior, Gilliga n consoles herself that the “cool” response to a m oral problem is a learned response that can, after all, be either unlearned or never learned in the first place. It enc oura ges Gilligan that early childhood psychologists no longer view young childre n as isolationists, capable only of “parallel pla y,”26 instead viewing them as skilled social interactors capable of creating relationships with their peers. It also encoura ges her that a n in-creasing number of adolescent psychologists have replaced asking the question “Why has this sixteen-year-old not developed relatio nal capacities x, y, and z yet?” with the question “Why has this sixteen-year-old lost so many of the relational capacities s/he had w hen s/he was eleven, or seven, or even three?”27 Recently, several studies have concluded that m ost childre n (but especially girls) express a “deep sense of outrage and despair over disconnection”28 as they enter adolescence. They perceive that the adult world is inhospitable to t he kind of intense and intimate relationships t hat make childhood s pecial. Because girls, e ven m ore tha n boys, treasure their close friendships, the y are particularly distressed at the parental admonitio n, “Growin g u p is ab o ut standing o n one’s own two feet.” T hey fear that a dulthood is not so m uch about autonom y as it is about aloneness, that is, a bout “being exclu ded, left out, a n d aba ndoned.”29 As Gilligan sees it, teachers routinely com municate to students the message that “caring is for kids,” that adults do not have time to build a strong network of relationships. Our whole educational system stresses only certain kinds of thinking. Teachers enc ourage stude nts to analyze arguments; to be scie ntific, objective, and rational; to a bstract and universalize their thoughts. As a res ult, students begin to view the humanities as s o m uch frivolous fluff—s ubjective stuff for sentimental softies. Rather than providing stu dents with the strategies a nd s kills for communal life, teachers provide the m with the strategies and skills for competitive life. Although Gilligan criticizes overly a nalytical, objective, a nd neutral teachers in general, she saves her harshest words for those educational psychologists who interpret children’s relationships as unhealthy attac h- ments or growt h-limiting dependencies. There is not hing “sick” a bout childre n’s relationships i n Gilligan’s estimation. Far from being impediments to m oral develop ment, such “attach ments” or “dependencies” are actually a sign of growth. Rather t han enc oura gin g children t o be detache d and indepe n dent, a d ults s hould encoura ge t hem to be res ponsive t o other people’s nee ds a nd wants.3°
For Gilligan, women exemplify care, which is an important moral characteristic. However Gilligan advocates for inclusive morality, one that strengthens relationships and solves problems without resorting to the binding authority of rules and principles. Gilligan suggests the ethic of care is rooted in the moral frameworks of responsibility and relationships rather than rights and rules and that any care orientation is inseparable from contextual circumstances rather than being a formal and abstract system of thought. Additionally, care is grounded in the daily activity of life rather that a set of universal principles 13.
While early strains of care ethics can be detected in the writings of feminist philosophers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Catherine and Harriet Beecher, and Charlotte Perkins, it was first most explicitly articulated by Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings in the early 1980s. While a graduate student at Harvard, Gilligan wrote her dissertation outlining a different path of moral development than the one described by Lawrence Kohlberg, her mentor. Kohlberg had posited that moral development progressively moves toward more universalized and principled thinking and had also found that girls, when later included in his studies, scored significantly lower than boys. Gilligan faulted Kohlberg’s model of moral development for being gender biased, and reported hearing a “different voice” than the voice of justice presumed in Kohlberg’s model. She found that both men and women articulated the voice of care at different times, but noted that the voice of care, without women, would nearly fall out of their studies. Refuting the charge that the moral reasoning of girls and women is immature because of its preoccupation with immediate relations, Gilligan asserted that the “care perspective” was an alternative, but equally legitimate form of moral reasoning obscured by masculine liberal justice traditions focused on autonomy and independence. She characterized this difference as one of theme, however, rather than of gender.
Gilligan articulated these thematic perspectives through the moral reasoning of “Jake” and “Amy”, two children in Kohlberg’s studies responding to the “Heinz dilemma”. In this dilemma, the children are asked whether a man, “Heinz”, should have stolen an overpriced drug to save the life of his ill wife. Jake sees the Heinz dilemma as a math problem with people wherein the right to life trumps the right to property, such that all people would reasonably judge that Heinz ought to steal the drug. Amy, on the other hand, disagrees that Heinz should steal the drug, lest he should go to prison and leave his wife in another predicament. She sees the dilemma as a narrative of relations over time, involving fractured relationships that must be mended through communication. Understanding the world as populated with networks of relationships rather than people standing alone, Amy is confident that the druggist would be willing to work with Heinz once the situation was explained. Gilligan posited that men and women often speak different languages that they think are the same, and she sought to correct the tendency to take the male perspective as the prototype for humanity in moral reasoning.
Later, Gilligan vigorously resisted readings of her work that posit care ethics as relating to gender more than theme, and even established the harmony of care and justice ethics (1986), but she never fully abandoned her thesis of an association between women and relational ethics. She further developed the idea of two distinct moral “voices”, and their relationship to gender in Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Education (Gilligan, Ward, and Taylor, 1988), a collection of essays that traced the predominance of the “justice perspective” within the fields of psychology and education, and the implications of the excluded “care perspective”. In Making Connections: The Relational Worlds of Adolescent Girls at Emma Willard School, Gilligan and her co-editors argued that the time between the ages of eleven and sixteen is crucial to girls’ formation of identity, being the time when girls learn to silence their inner moral intuitions in favor of more rule bound interpretations of moral reasoning (Gilligan, Lyons, and Hamner, 1990, 3). Gilligan found that in adulthood women are encouraged to resolve the crises of adolescence by excluding themselves or others, that is, by being good/responsive, or by being selfish/independent. As a result, women’s adolescent voices of resistance become silent, and they experience a dislocation of self, mind, and body, which may be reflected in eating disorders, low leadership aspiration, and self-effacing sexual choices. Gilligan also expanded her ideas in a number of articles and reports (Gilligan, 1979; 1980; 1982; 1987).
Green B (2012) Applying Feminist Ethics of Care to Nursing Practice. J Nurs Care 1:111.
Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Ca mbridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982). 3. Carol Gilligan, “Moral Orientation and Moral Development,” in Eva Feder Kittay and Diana T. Meyers, eds., Women and Moral Theory (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman ; Littlefield, 1987), 25. 4. Ibid. 5. Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Ca mbridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), 7. Quoting Freud.
Gilligan and Kohlberg: Implications for Moral Theory Author(s): Lawrence A. Blum Source: Ethics, Vol. 98, No. 3 (Apr., 1988), pp. 472-491 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2380962 Accessed: 14/02/2009 23:01
Dr. C. George Boeree Personality theories: ERIK ERIKSON Psychology Department Shippensburg University Original E-Text-Site: http://www.ship.edu/%7Ecgboeree/perscontents.html