Aristotle: Founder of the Ethics of Care [Book Review]

Journal of Value Inquiry 41 (2-4):221-243 (2007)
The title of this paper is meant to be provocative. The issue is not whether Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings, who are usually credited with originating the ethics of care, build explicitly upon AristotleÕs work, or even whether Aristotle is a source of inspiration for them.1 Instead, the issue is whether Aristotle is an earlier advocate, perhaps the earliest advocate, of the ethics of care. Aristotle cannot be an ethics of care advocate without a concept of care, but Aristotle does have a concept of care. Although the Greek terms phil" esis and its infinitive version to philein are typically translated as ‘‘love,’’ or ‘‘friendly feeling,’’ or ‘‘friendly affection’’ by AristotleÕs translators, Aristotle uses phil" esis and to philein to mean approximately what advocates of the ethics of care mean by ‘‘caring’’ and ‘‘care.’’ Aristotle defines to philein in the following way. ‘‘We may describe to philein towards anyone as wishing for him what you believe to be good things, not for your own sake but for his, and being inclined, so far as you can, to bring these things about.’’2 Furthermore, Aristotle contrasts phil" esis with mere goodwill. He says that goodwill, ‘‘does not involve intensity or desire, whereas these accompany phil" esis; and phil" esis implies intimacy while goodwill may arise of a sudden.’’3 Hence, phil" esis is no shallow whim, but a deep desire for the wellbeing of another person sought not merely as a means to the wellbeing of the agent, but for the sake of the other person. The interests of the other person are sought because of the character of the person. Moreover, phil" esis includes substantial familiarity with the other person gained through meaningful personal interactions with the person. This is compassion and sympathy, core components of care. Aristotle says little about phil".
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