On dogs and children: judgements in the realm of meaning

Ethics and Education 6 (2):171-180 (2011)
When we say that good parenting is an ethical and not a technical matter, what is the nature of the warrant we can give for identifying one way of parenting as good and another as bad? There is, of course, a general issue here about the giving of reasons in ethics. The issue may seem to arise with peculiar force in parenting since parenting casts our whole being into uncertainty: here, above all, it seems, we do not scrutinise our commitments from a moral standpoint that is itself secure, and such moral judgements as we make must be tentative. I attempt to illustrate this from the point of view not of parenting but of owning a dog, where the uncertainty and the tentativeness are more marked still and can be deeply disconcerting. A strong case, however, can be made for saying that these are inevitable and proper features of the essentially dialogic and self-reflexive nature of ethical discourse. When we appreciate this, parenting appears less an especially problematic or marginal field of ethical inquiry than a paradigm case of it.
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DOI 10.1080/17449642.2011.622990
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