It is widely accepted that only the victim of a wrong can forgive that wrong. Several philosophers have recently defended “third-party forgiveness,” the scenario in which A, who is not the victim of a wrong in any sense, forgives B for a wrong B did to C. Focusing on Glen Pettigrove's argument for third-party forgiveness, I will defend the victim's unique standing to forgive, by appealing to the fact that in forgiving, victims must absorb severe and inescapable costs of distinctive (...) kinds, a plight that third parties do not share. There are, nonetheless, significant, even essential, roles played by third parties in making forgiveness possible, reasonable, or valuable for victims of serious wrongs. I take a closer look at the links between victims, wrongdoers, resentment, and forgiveness in showing why the victim alone can forgive. (shrink)
Abstract: International instruments now defend a "right to the truth" for victims of political repression and violence and include truth telling about human rights violations as a kind of reparation as well as a form of redress. While truth telling about violations is obviously a condition of redress or repair for violations, it may not be clear how truth telling itself is a kind of reparations. By showing that concerted truth telling can satisfy four features of suitable reparations vehicles, I (...) defend the idea that politically implemented modes of truth telling to, for, and by those who are victims of gross violation and injustice may with good reason be counted as a kind of reparations. Understanding the doubly symbolic character of reparations, however, makes clearer why truth telling is unlikely to be sufficient reparation for serious wrongs and is likely to be sensitive to the larger context of reparative activity and its social, political, and historical background. (shrink)
This is a revised edition of Walker's well-known book in feminist ethics first published in 1997. Walker's book proposes a view of morality and an approach to ethical theory which uses the critical insights of feminism and race theory to rethink the epistemological and moral position of the ethical theorist, and how moral theory is inescapably shaped by culture and history. The main gist of her book is that morality is embodied in "practices of responsibility" that express our identities, values, (...) and connections to others in socially patterned ways. Thus ethical theory needs to be empirically informed and politically critical to avoid reiterating forms of socially entrenched bias. Responsible ethical theory should reveal and question the moral significance of social differences. The book engages with, and challenges, the work of contemporary analytic philosophers in ethics. Moral Understandings has been influential in reaching a global audience in ethics and feminist philosophy, as well as in tangential fields like nursing ethics; research ethics; disability ethics; environmental ethics, and social and political theory. This revised edition contains a new preface, a substantive postscript to Chapter 1 about "the subject of moral philosophy"; the addition of a new chapter on the importance of emotion in practices of responsibility; and the addition of an afterword, which responds to critics of the book. (shrink)
Editor's note: with this essay, Hypatia inaugurates a new column. We welcome musings on the state of the profession, the life of the independent scholar, political activism, teaching, publishing, or other topics of interest to feminist philosophers. We particularly invite submissions that pick up conversational threads begun by earlier contributions to the column, so that Musings becomes a forum for talking to one another. If you have an idea for the column, please tell us about it.
This essay argues that feminist ethics offers a model of moral philosophy that is enriched by empirical information and critical thought about actual social and moral forms of life and their distributions of authority, privilege and power. Feminist ethics is committed to revealing the ways that these social realities affect both moral philosophy and ethical thinking. Through analysis of a series of diverse examples of claims in contemporary moral philosophy, I illustrate the pitfalls of failing to test philosophical generalizations about (...) moral thinking and moral recognition in light of the realities of human social life and the pervasive presence of social hierarchies that shape moral attitudes as well as social interactions. In conclusion, I argue briefly for a non-ideal, nonfoundationalist, reflexively critical, and naturalized approach to philosophical theory in ethics and to everyday moral thinking. (shrink)
: I briefly reprise a few themes of my bookMoral Understandingsin order to address some questions about responsibility and justification. I argue for a thoroughly situated and naturalized view of moral justification that warns us not to take moral universalism too easily at face value. I also argue for the significance of reports of experience, among other kinds of empirical evidence, in testing the habitability of moral forms of life.
This brief comment was a contribution to a 1995 Symposium on Feminism and Philosophy in the 1990s held at the Pacific Division Meeting of the APA in conjunction with the Society for Philosophy and Public Affairs. I suggest the usefulness of paying attention to the differences among philosophers who are women; philosophers who are feminists; philosophers who do feminist philosophy; and philosophers who want to express their feminism in their roles as philosophers. Keeping these differences in mind might help us (...) to avoid mistaken and disrespectful assumptions about both philosophers and feminist philosophy. (shrink)
In a comment on my paper "Feminism, Ethics, and the Question of Theory" (Walker 1992), Keith Burgess-Jackson argues that I have misdiagnosed the problem with modern moral theory. Burgess-Jackson misunderstands both the illustrative-"theoretical-juridical"-model I constructed there and how my critique and alternative model answer to specifically feminist concerns. Ironically, his own view seems to reproduce the very conception of morality as an individually internalized action-guiding code of principles that my earlier essay argued is the conception central to modern moral (...) theories. (shrink)
Feminist discussions of ethics in the Western philosophical tradition range from critiques of the substance of dominant moral theories to critiques of the very practice of "doing ethics" itself. I argue that these critiques really target a certain historically specific model of ethics and moral theory-a "theoretical-juridical" one. I outline an "expressive-collaborative" conception of morality and ethics that could be a politically self-conscious and reflexively critical alternative.
In a comment on my paper, "Moral Understandings: Alternative Epistemology for a Feminist Ethics" (1989) Ralph Lindgren questions the wisdom of confrontational rhetoric in my paper and much feminist moral philosophy, and the consistency of this stance with pluralism about ethics. I defend both the rebellious rhetoric and the inclusivity of my own approach, but suggest that pluralism in moral philosophy is harder to define than Lindgren's comments suggest.
Work on representing women's voices in ethics has produced a vision of moral understanding profoundly subversive of the traditional philosophical conception of moral knowledge. I explicate this alternative moral "epistemology," identify how it challenges the prevailing view, and indicate some of its resources for a liberatory feminist critique of philosophical ethics.