Ethics of Care Essay

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ETHIC OF CARE (GENDER) Theorists such as Piaget, Kohlberg and Gilligan have proposed several theories on the course of human moral development. Gilligan’s work in particular has received much support in defining a difference between how men and women approach moral reasoning in relation to the ethic of care. Gilligan’s work has certainly raised our consciousness regarding differences in moral thought. Viewing these differences however as a universal gender issue alone leads to an oversimplification of what appears to be a far more complex debate. Theories on moral reasoning developed by researchers such as Dewey (1895), McDougall (1908), Baldwin (1906), Mead (1934), and in particular Piaget (1932), formed the basis of Lawrence Kohlberg’s original interest in moral thought (as cited by White, 1999). Piaget’s studies assessed the moral development of children. He proposed moral dilemmas and then questioned them as to the basis of their reasoning (Sternberg, 1998). Kohlberg extended Piaget’s work by emphasising the cognitive processes that motivate ‘moral thought’ (Hayes, 1994, p.261). Where Piaget focused on children and adolescents, Kohlberg’s theory encompassed a lifetime perspective on the rationalisation of moral dilemmas (White, 1996). Kohlberg’s own theory was formulated through a longitudinal study on the moral reasoning of fifty-eight American boys’ aged ten, thirteen and sixteen. The research lasted three decades and involved evaluation of a set of dilemmas where legalistic rules and humanitarian needs came into conflict. The research concluded that people from all cultures progress through a hierarchal system involving six stages of lower to higher moral reasoning. This incorporated three developmental moral levels, each with two stages, producing a progressive shift in moral maturity (Kohlberg, 1984). In 1982, Carol Gilligan raised the

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