Arguments for an ‘ethics of care’ have grown from a debate in moral psychology, in particular that between Kohlberg (1981, 1984) and Gilligan (1982). Kohlberg’s extensive, transcultural research on moral development argues for a hierarchy in which the most basic level is one at which moral behaviour follows from learned obedience and avoidance of punishment, while at the highest level a person is capable of identifying complex moral issues and applying universal and abstract principles. Gilligan challenges this model on the grounds that the research sample was entirely male. When Gilligan conducted a different experiment with young women she observed that values of caring for others and maintaining social relationships were predominant. These are the middle stages of Kohlberg’s hierarchy, which he termed ‘conventional morality’.
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- Feminism and the Ethics of Care
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