The place of care in ethical theory

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 23 (2):210 – 224 (1998)
Abstract
The concept of care and a related ethical theory of care have emerged as increasingly important in biomedical ethics. This essay outlines a series of questions about the conceptualization of care and its place in ethical theory. First, it considers the possibility that care should be conceptualized as an alternative principle of right action; then as a virtue, a cluster of virtues, or as a synonym for virtue theory. The implications for various interpretations of the debate of the relation of care and justice are then explored, suggesting three possible meanings for that contrast. Next, the possibility that care theorists are taking up the debate over the relation between principles and cases is considered. Finally, it is suggested that care theorists may be pressing for consideration of an entirely new question in moral theory: the assessment of the normative appropriateness of relationships. Issues needing to be addressed in an ethic of relationships are suggested.
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