Moral Reasoning

Are there “female” ways of moral reasoning?Social changes over the last five or six decades have increased opportunities for women to study academic philosophy and to engage in shared reflection on questions of ethics. This has coincided with the revival of virtue ethics in contemporary academic philosophy. Indeed, many of the leading contemporary moral philosophers who work in virtue ethics are women: Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Rosalinde Hursthouse.In the Preface to Dependent Rational Animals, MacIntyre credits feminist writers with convincing him that he had not previously paid enough attention to the role of relationality, animality, vulnerability, and dependence in human life and moral philosophy. On p. 3, MacIntyre credits feminist philosophers generally, and Virginia Held and Eva Feder Kattay specifically, with attentiveness to dependence and disability, along with an emphasis on the mother-child relationship as a paradigm for moral relationships.Beginning especially in the 1980s, several thinkers have claimed that “feminist ethics” and/or a female perspective brings a distinctive voice and set of concerns to moral philosophy, including a philosophical approach that contrasts with that of most modern moral philosophers. As we studied in the first two units of this course, the two dominant modes of moral reasoning in the modern period (Kant’s duty ethics and Mill’s utilitarianism), while differing on many points, both emphasize universal principles and impartiality; several thinkers, especially female academics and some who would consider themselves to be feminists, have questioned whether universal moral principles (like duty or utility) are a product of modern European male culture. One important challenge to modern moral philosophy has come from feminist ethics.The task for you in this essay is to consider several perspectives, and then to reflect on (and respond to) this question:Are there “female” ways of moral reasoning?Watch this 5-minute video on feminist ethics/care ethics.Look at this study from Stanford Medicine which states, “over the past 15 years or so, there’s been a sea change as new technologies have generated a growing pile of evidence that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired”.

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