Get access

Gratuity, Embodiment, and Reciprocity

Christian Love and Justice in Light of Human Dependency


  • Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar

Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Department of Theology, Crown Center 300, 1032 W. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60660,


Protestant Christian ethicist Timothy Jackson and secular feminist philosopher Eva Feder Kittay each explore the relationship between love or care and justice through the lens of human dependency. Jackson sharply prioritizes agape over justice, whereas Kittay articulates a more complex and integrated understanding of the relationship of care and distributive justice. An account of Christian love and its relation to justice must account for the gratuity, mutuality, and reciprocity that pervade human existence. Such an account must integrate provision for another's basic needs, a feature of agape, with a distributive justice that fairly allocates the material prerequisites of care and the burden of caring labor. Kittay's treatment of care and justice is more adequate to the realities of human embodiment and the social organization of care than Jackson's, but neither offers a fully adequate ground for the moral personhood of all human beings, including deeply dependent persons.

Get access to the full text of this article