Are Justice and Care two different things?

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I really have to wonder whether Justice and Care (reduced to simple labels) are really two separate things, or whether they might be two aspects of the same thing. That is, the use of the term “Justice” when contrasted to “Care” seems narrower than in other applications of the term “Justice”. Now there seems to be a bit of a paradox in reasoning about the differences between Justice and Care, since the Care perspective seems to hold the activity as largely irrelevant (rather than ratiocinating about the differences, I could be considering how my writing and opinions connect or distance me from others). So already the approach runs the danger of being unfair to the Care perspective, but here goes…

First let us consider what is higher, justice, virtue, or morality? (Yes, hierarchical thinking.) Is justice the overarching principle from which morality and virtue are derived? Or is morality the overarching principle from which Justice is derived? This may seem irrelevant, but it addresses the question of how Justice and Care differ. In Carol Gillian's "Moral Orientation and Development", morality – doing the right thing – can be determined in practice in two different ways: by moral reasoning or by a “care perspective”. Subsequently, for Gilligan Justice – being fair – is a subcategory of moral actions. This is a result of her attempt to integrate Justice and Care on equal terms. In her words: “The justice perspective, often equated with moral reasoning, is recast as one way of seeing moral problems and a care perspective is brought forward as an alternate vision or frame” (Gilligan 32). This narrowed-down definition of Justice as that which is derived by reasoning can then stand on equal footing with a Care perspective which often arrives at the same or similar conclusions by alternative routes. (It would be very interesting to survey the instances where the outcomes of Justice and Care reasoning differs, and then examine why.) An alternative is to understand Justice more broadly as “that which is fair” regardless of how this is determined. Then morality – doing the right thing – is a subset of Justice, and the so-called Care and “Justice” perspectives are simply different ways of determining what is Just. In this way they are really just two aspects of the same thing, also called “Justice” (just to confuse everyone).

Gilligan, Carol. "Moral Orientation and Development."  Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics. Ed. Virginia Held. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995.

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This page contains a single entry by Daniel Hindes published on December 12, 2007 1:59 PM.

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