Clinical Ethics and Nursing: "Yes" to Caring, but "No" to a Female Ethics of Care
Bioethics. 1995 Jul; 9(3/4): 207-219.
According to a contemporary school of thought there is a specific female approach to ethics which is based not on abstract "male" ethical principles or rules, but on "care". Nurses have taken a keen interest in these female approaches to ethics. Drawing on the views expounded by Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings, nurses claim that a female "ethics of care" better captures their moral experiences than a traditional male "ethics of justice". This paper argues that "care" is best understood in a dispositional sense, that is, as sensitivity and responsiveness to the particularities of a situation and the needs of "concrete" others. While "care", in this sense, is necessary for ethics, it is not sufficient. Ethics needs "justice" as well as "care". If women and nurses excessively devalue principles and norms, they will be left without the theoretical tools to condemn some actions or practices, and to defend others. They will, like generations of nurses before them, be condemned to silence.
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