The ethics of care or the ethics of justice? : a middle way

Wasson, Katherine (1998). The ethics of care or the ethics of justice? : a middle way. PhD thesis The Open University.



The objectives are to examine the tension between the ethics of care and the ethics of justice, offer critical analysis and develop an amalgam of key elements from both. A more sufficient framework for moral decision-making will be proposed and its validity assessed.

Part One investigates the ethics of care, beginning with a critical analysis of Carol Gilligan's approach to the ethics of care and justice, leading to an exploration of the nature and content of care from key authors in the debate. By focusing on nursing the tensions surrounding care are highlighted. Critical analysis draws out key themes from care including persons, relationships, context and responsibilities.

Part Two examines the ethics of justice, concentrating on the substantive theories of John Rawls and Alasdair MacIntyre. Through critical analysis the need for minimum standards of protection for the vulnerable in society is highlighted. The thesis emphasises and argues for justice as equality, fairness and equity, the importance of persons, community, rationality, justification, fittingness, morality, duties and obligations.

Part Three argues for an amalgam of key themes from both the ethics of care and justice. This model consists of the crucial role of context, persons and relationships, responsibilities, justice and appropriateness in moral decision-making as a framework for a middle way. After arguing for its sufficiency in theory, it is tested in practice by application to the Child B case. The thesis argues a middle way model is more adequate than either the ethics of care or justice alone for critically examining the decisions and justifications offered in this case.

In conclusion, critical reflection on the theory and practice of a middle way model is offered, and its potential for further application and development regarding moral decision-making and training for the caring professions explored.

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