Carol Gilligan: interpretation of “Feminine Ethics”
Carol Gilligan was born on November 28, 1936, in New York City. She hasreceived her doctorate degree in social psychology from Harvard Universityin 1964m and began teaching at Harvard in 1967. Then in 1970 she becamea research assistant for the great theorist of moral development, LawrenceKohlberg. Eventually Gilligan became independent and began to criticize some of Kohlberg’ s work. Her opinions were presented in her famous book, ” In adifferent Voice: Psychological Theory and Women ‘ s Development ” whichwas published in 1982. She felt that Kohlberg only studied ” privileged,white men and boys. ” Gilligan said that this caused a biased opinion againstwomen. She felt that , in Kohlberg ‘ s stage theory of moral development,the male view of individual rights and rules was considered a higher stagethan women’s point of view of development in terms of its caring effect onhuman relationships. ” Gilligan ‘ s goal is was to prove that women are not “moral midgets ” , she was going against many psychological opinions.Another famous theorist, Freud thought women ‘ s moral sense was stuntedbecause they stayed attached to their mothers. Another great theorist , ErikErickson , thought the tasks of development were separation from motherand the family , If women did not succeed in this scale, then they wereobviously lacking. Therefore Gilligan ‘ s goal was a good cause.Her theory is divided into three stages of moral development beginning from” selfish , to social or conventional morality , and finally to post conventionalor principled morality . ” Women must learn to deal to their own interestsand to the interests of others . She thinks that women hesitate to judgebecause they see the complexities of relationships.
While early strains of care ethics can be detected in the writings of feminist philosophers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Catherine and Harriet Beecher, and Charlotte Perkins, it was first most explicitly articulated by Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings in the early 1980s. While a graduate student at Harvard, Gilligan wrote her dissertation outlining a different path of moral development than the one described by Lawrence Kohlberg, her mentor. Kohlberg had posited that moral development progressively moves toward more universalized and principled thinking and had also found that girls, when later included in his studies, scored significantly lower than boys. Gilligan faulted Kohlberg’s model of moral development for being gender biased, and reported hearing a “different voice” than the voice of justice presumed in Kohlberg’s model. She found that both men and women articulated the voice of care at different times, but noted that the voice of care, without women, would nearly fall out of their studies. Refuting the charge that the moral reasoning of girls and women is immature because of its preoccupation with immediate relations, Gilligan asserted that the “care perspective” was an alternative, but equally legitimate form of moral reasoning obscured by masculine liberal justice traditions focused on autonomy and independence. She characterized this difference as one of theme, however, rather than of gender.
Gilligan articulated these thematic perspectives through the moral reasoning of “Jake” and “Amy”, two children in Kohlberg’s studies responding to the “Heinz dilemma”. In this dilemma, the children are asked whether a man, “Heinz”, should have stolen an overpriced drug to save the life of his ill wife. Jake sees the Heinz dilemma as a math problem with people wherein the right to life trumps the right to property, such that all people would reasonably judge that Heinz ought to steal the drug. Amy, on the other hand, disagrees that Heinz should steal the drug, lest he should go to prison and leave his wife in another predicament. She sees the dilemma as a narrative of relations over time, involving fractured relationships that must be mended through communication. Understanding the world as populated with networks of relationships rather than people standing alone, Amy is confident that the druggist would be willing to work with Heinz once the situation was explained. Gilligan posited that men and women often speak different languages that they think are the same, and she sought to correct the tendency to take the male perspective as the prototype for humanity in moral reasoning.
Later, Gilligan vigorously resisted readings of her work that posit care ethics as relating to gender more than theme, and even established the harmony of care and justice ethics (1986), but she never fully abandoned her thesis of an association between women and relational ethics. She further developed the idea of two distinct moral “voices”, and their relationship to gender in Mapping the Moral Domain: A Contribution of Women’s Thinking to Psychological Theory and Education (Gilligan, Ward, and Taylor, 1988), a collection of essays that traced the predominance of the “justice perspective” within the fields of psychology and education, and the implications of the excluded “care perspective”. In Making Connections: The Relational Worlds of Adolescent Girls at Emma Willard School, Gilligan and her co-editors argued that the time between the ages of eleven and sixteen is crucial to girls’ formation of identity, being the time when girls learn to silence their inner moral intuitions in favor of more rule bound interpretations of moral reasoning (Gilligan, Lyons, and Hamner, 1990, 3). Gilligan found that in adulthood women are encouraged to resolve the crises of adolescence by excluding themselves or others, that is, by being good/responsive, or by being selfish/independent. As a result, women’s adolescent voices of resistance become silent, and they experience a dislocation of self, mind, and body, which may be reflected in eating disorders, low leadership aspiration, and self-effacing sexual choices. Gilligan also expanded her ideas in a number of articles and reports (Gilligan, 1979; 1980; 1982; 1987).