Care and Abstract Principles


  • Ornaith O'Dowd


Since Carol Gilligan's analysis of the “Heinz dilemma,” many philosophers working on care have articulated critiques of abstraction and principles in ethics. Their objections to abstraction and principles have not always been systematically set out. In this paper, I try to clarify the debate. I begin by distinguishing several aspects of the care critique. I then consider the strengths of each from a Kantian perspective. I conclude that, although some of these objections point out potential misuses of abstraction and principle, and in doing so, suggest strategies and cautions for their correct and careful use in ethics, they do not present a successful challenge to abstraction or principles as such.