Justifying Partiality in Care Ethics

Res Publica 26 (1):67-87 (2020)

Abstract

A central focus of care ethics is on the compelling moral salience of attending to the needs of our particular others. However, there is no consensus within the care literature for how and when such partiality is morally justified. This article outlines and defends a novel justificatory argument that grounds partiality in the facts and values of the relation itself. Specifically, this article argues that partiality is justified when grounded in caring values exemplified in good caring relations. Hence, this justification is termed the argument from good caring relations. This justification is promising for two reasons. First, the argument from good caring relations has the potential to spur engagement between care ethics and the broader partiality literature. In particular, the argument from good caring relations could enhance what Simon Keller has termed ‘the relationships view’. Second, the argument from good caring relations is more persuasive than the other major justificatory argument for partiality presently in the care literature: a distributive argument, which takes the form of a modified version of Robert Goodin’s assigned responsibility model of moral obligation. Indeed, where this distributive argument fails, the argument from good caring relation succeeds. This article thus concludes that the argument from good caring relations is preferable for justifying partiality in care ethics.

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