Ethics of Care

Carol Gilligan (1936 – ) is considered the founder of the Ethics of Care philosophical movement. Much of the foundations of this movement were published in her book, In a Different Voice (1982).

In the 1960s Gilligan realized that men (in contrast to people) were the measure of humanity, with autonomy and rationality as the markers of maturity. To explore this, and its implications, she undertook three empirical studies: college student study about moral development, the abortion decision study looking at conflict, and the rights and responsibilities study which examined concepts of self and morality in men and women of different ages.

Analysis and reflection on these studies resulted in Gilligan developing a framework for the Ethics of Care, where, “the different voice I describe is characterized not by gender but theme. Its association with women is an empirical observation, and is primarily through women’s voices that I trace its development.”

The Ethics of Care is proposed as an alternative to Lawrence Kohlberg’s (1927 – 1987) hierarchal and patriarchal approach to ethics, where he claims that girls (and thus women), did not in general develop their moral abilities to the highest levels. Gilligan explained gendered differences in moral reasoning as cultural constructions, and not in essentialist terms. Kohlberg provided detailed responses to Gilligan in Essays on Moral Development: Vol.II. The Psychology of Moral Development: The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages (1984). Kohlberg has been extremely influential, including some of the content in John Rawls’ (1921 – 2002) A Theory of Justice (1972).

Gilligan contended that women approach ethical problems differently, by focusing on responsibilities and relationships while men focus on rights and rules.

In 2011, Gilligan was able to appreciate that care is regarded as a feminine ethic within a patriarchal framework, but as a human ethic within a democratic framework. For her, reason can co-exist with emotion, mind with body, self with relationships and even men with women. This co-existence is not permitted in a patriarchal framework. Gilligan calls this less divisive and more human approach, the Ethics of Care.

Many other feminists, especially, have reflected on the Ethics of Care, and developed their own philosophies. One of the first was Nel Noddings (1929 – ) who wrote Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984). She makes a distinction between natural and ethical caring. Personally, Noddings is difficult to understand, except that she seems to be enforcing traditional views of nurturing.

Annette Baier (1929 – 2012) is more interesting because she states that women and men make their decisions about right and wrong based on different value systems: men take their moral decisions according to an idea of justice, while women are motivated by a sense of trust or caring. A major concern is that philosophy, and its history, have been dominated by men, resulting in the feminine perspective being ignored.

Joan Claire Tronto (1952 – ) attempted to operationalize the ethics of care, especially in Moral boundaries: a political argument for an ethic of care (1993). She defines care as “On the most general level we suggest caring be viewed as a species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our “world”so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.” (p. 103)

Tronto differentiates obligation-based ethics and responsibility-based ethics. Obligation-based ethics involve a decision maker determines what obligations s/he has and responding. This contrasts with responsibility-based ethics, where the relationship with others is the starting point. Thus, the Ethics of Care involves/ requires developing a habit of care. (p. 127)

There are four elements of caring, that are the fundamentals necessary to provide effective care. These require certain attitudes and skills. They are: 1. attentiveness; 2. responsibility; 3. competence; and, 4. responsiveness of the care receiver. (p. 127)

Tronto defines four phases of caring. These involves cognitive, emotional, and action strategies. However, they are not in sequential order, and can overlap. They are: 1. caring about; 2. taking care of; 3. care giving; and 4. care receiving. (p. 165)

The one Norwegian philosopher who deserves mention is Tove Pettersen (1962 – ), perhaps better known for her work on the existential ethics of Simone de Beauvoir. In addition to numerous articles, she has written one major book on the subject, Comprehending Care: Problems and Possibilities in The Ethics of Care (2008).

In an interview, later published, Pettersen states, “In our culture, the Good Samaritan ideal overlaps with the traditional understanding of what it means to be a good woman. Female care workers in particular—whether they are mothers or nurses—are commonly expected to be altruistic, to systematically put the interests of others first, while treating their own needs as secondary and unimportant. Consequently, they are expected to work beyond what is reasonable in order to fulfil this altruistic ideal. Using the Good Samaritan as an ideal for care workers in professions where the employer’s goal is to maximize profit and minimize costs paves the way for exploitation. Care workers are especially exposed to exploitation, because they have the responsibility for the well-being of vulnerable others. In many situations, care workers simply cannot reject this responsibility. It is therefore very important to be aware of how easy it is to be exploited when the traditional images of what it means to be a woman, and the traditional images of what good care is, are jointly applied. Unfortunately, the Good Samaritan cannot be an ideal for contemporary care work.

Virtue Ethics

Our hobby business, Fjellheim Institute ANS existed for many years mainly as the publisher of the Norwegian edition of The Virtues Guide (1996). Information about this enterprise is found in Keywords 023 Excellence.

Mary Rosalind Hursthouse (1943 – ) explains the concept of a virtue in her entry for Virtue Ethics in the 2013 edition of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not just a tendency to do what is honest or generous, nor is it to be helpfully specified as a “desirable” or “morally valuable” character trait. It is, indeed a character trait—that is, a disposition which is well entrenched in its possessor, something that, as we say “goes all the way down”, unlike a habit such as being a tea-drinker—but the disposition in question, far from being a single track disposition to do honest actions, or even honest actions for certain reasons, is multi-track. It is concerned with many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations and sensibilities. To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset. (Hence the extreme recklessness of attributing a virtue on the basis of a single action.)”

While Virtue Ethics can be said to begin with Socrates (ca. 470 – 399 BC), it is Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) who puts the field on the map, in Nicomachean Ethics, where he discusses about 11 moral virtues. Each virtue was suspended between two vices, one excessive, the other deficient. Thus, a person was to aim for moderation, a position somewhere between the two extremes.

At this point, we will ease our way into modern Virtue Ethics, by noting Alasdair Macintyre’s (1929 – ) demand in After Virtue (1981/ 1984/ 2007) that virtues have to be a community project. Ethics implies ethos, that each and every virtues has to be grounded in a particular time and place. If I look at my own upbringing, the society I grew up in was racist, discriminated against women, refused to tolerate either abortion or homosexuality, allowed parents to use physical punishment, encouraged smoking and drinking, and punished people who advocated socialist principles.

Each and every individual has to address emerging social issues, and to make a decision as to how to behave in the world. The list of moral virtues has to be applied to countless areas.

In addition to the 11 moral virtues, Aristotle also comments on seven other intellectual virtues. Of these it is especially Techne, translated as art or craftsmanship, that is of overwhelming interest for me, and many others in contemporary society. Here, I am particularly interested in miniaturization, manufacturing techniques – especially those that can be implemented locally, robotics and other forms of physical computing using sensors and activators. Naturally, I hope that there will be many others who are concerned about other challenging areas, such as health and nutrition/ agriculture.

One of the works that has impacted me the most is David Harvey’s (1935 – ) Social Justice and the City (1973), which I read almost as soon as it came out. The book is divided into three parts, of which the first two are most important. When I finished the first part, I felt I had understood the problem of urbanization. Then, as I read the second part I began to realize, that the proposed solutions simply created new problems. People fail to understand the consequences of their actions.

In my mind, I am often comparing Harvey’s work, with A Theory of Justice (1971) by John Rawls (1921 – 2002). The libertarian solutions proposed by Rawls, mirror those in the first part of Harvey’s book. I continually fear that Rawls does not appreciate how much needless damage libertarianism extracts from society. For MacIntyre, morals and virtues can only be understood in relation to the community in which they come from. Harvey expresses the same, but uses different words. Rawls wants people to consider justice as some sort of abstract ideal.

The Virtues Guide (1990/ 1993/ 1995), written by Linda Kavelin Popov and Dan Popov, and illustrated by John Kavelin, consisted of 52 different virtues, one for each week of the year. In our kitchen we also have 100 Virtues Cards. We choose one to focus on each week. Unfortunately, many of them do not feel like virtues.

I am contemplating a new approach, focusing on Aristotle’s original 11 moral virtues, one at a time. First, there has to be an understanding of the social context of each virtue. What does it mean, anno 2020? Second, there will have to be an understanding of how that virtue prepares a person for their ultimate destiny. Third, one must look at how a deficit of that virtue will affect a person. Fourth, a similar approach must be undertaken to understand what excess means, in terms of that virtue.

Carlos Ghosn vs Japan Inc.

Nissan Diesel Trucks (Photo: NZ Car Freak)

This weblog post is about Carlos Ghosn (1954 – ), the former CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and his cultural war with the Japanese business establishment. It might have had a different plot if I hadn’t read Exposure: Silenced. Threatened. Time to Fight Back. (2012) written by Michael Woodford (1960 – ).

The major reason for writing this post now, is Ghosn’s escape from Japan to Lebanon. He had been charged in Japan 2018-11-19 with under-reporting his earnings and misuse of Nissan assets, followed 2019-04-04 with charges of misappropriations of Nissan funds. He has spent considerable time in detention, as well as house arrest. However, many suspect that these charges were more about Japanese business interests (aided by the Japanese government) wanting to take back control of Nissan, than that anyone was actually worried about the relatively miniscule size of misappropriated funds. The fact that a major Japanese auto manufacturer had to use the services of a gaijin (foreigner) had been extremely embarrassing.


In 1996, Renault hired Ghosn to turn the company around from near bankruptcy. By 1999, the plan devised by Ghosn had worked. Much of it involved using Japanese management practices. In 1999 Nissan was facing a similar bankruptcy threat. In 1999-03, Renault and Nissan formed the Renault–Nissan Alliance, resulting in Renault purchased a 36.8% minority interest in Nissan. This allowed Ghosn the opportunity to develop the Nissan Revival Plan to turn around Nissan, using many of the same approaches as he used at Renault. By 2002-03-31 all of these goals had been accomplished. As of 2018-11, Renault owned 43.4% of Nissan, while Nissan owned non-voting shares equal to 15% of Renault’s equity, showing the unequal strength of the two companies in relation to each other.

This webpost does not proclaim Ghosn’s innocence. Only a court of law can do that, although there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A legitimate question to ask is, what is the reason for the criminal charges against Ghosn? The problem with the Ghosn affair, is that Ghosn seems to be treated differently than equivalent Japanese business leaders caught up in similar situations. Here are some examples.


Perhaps the greatest Japanese crime of this century is related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that began 2011-03-11. This disaster was the most severe nuclear accident since the 1986-04-26 Chernobyl disaster and the only other one to be given Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

The disaster caused meltdowns in three separate reactors. The lack of adequate preparations for a tsunami and related events resulted in the evacuation of more than 470 000 people. Nearly 18 500 people died in or were listed as missing from the disaster area. Despite the enormous ramifications of this disaster, Japanese society/ culture effectively blocked any one person or even group of people from being found responsible for it. Japanese prosecutors had twice declined to press criminal charges against former Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) executives, saying there was little chance of success. Then a judicial panel ruled that three men should be put on trial, despite the opposition of the prosecutors.

2019-09-19 a Japanese court found Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto, and Ichiro Takekuro, the former most senior executives of Tepco, not guilty of professional negligence. No one else has been charged with anything related to this disaster.

The conviction rate in Japan is 99.4%. In other words, the prosecutors are acting, effectively, as judges. In this particular case, their reluctance to prosecute was interpreted as an indication of non-guilt.


Only a month after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Michael Woodford was appointed president and COO (2011-04) of Olympus Corporation, a Japanese manufacturer noted for its professional optical products. He was appointed CEO six months later, 2011-10. Woodford started working for Olympus in 1981 and subsequently rose in the company to manage its European operations. Woodford was the company’s first non-Japanese CEO. He was removed from his CEO position after two weeks, when he persisted in questioning fees in excess of US$1 billion that Olympus had paid to obscure companies, which appeared to have been used to hide old losses and appeared to have organised crime connections. By 2012 this scandal had developed into one of the biggest and longest-lived loss-concealing financial scandals in the history of corporate Japan.

Woodford’s life was threatened, because of the criminal organisation connections. Ultimately, Olympus had to agree to a settlement for defamation and wrongful dismissal.


Japan Forward was sceptical of Ghosn’s arrest: “A Western businessman with several decades in Japan noted: The “thin gruel of ‘misdeeds’ that they’ve put forward to date as justification is laughable. Reads like any day at the office for many [Japanese] CEOs. The Japanese business establishment crushes everything that threatens its worldview and privileges. … Another added: “During my time in Japan, I met the CEOs and managing directors of a variety of companies and a few were wonderful people, but a lot were not…. [They were] in cahoots with the yaks (Yakuza) — abused their expenses, went on company paid junkets, received kickbacks, got laid on the company tab…. I don’t know what Ghosn did, but I doubt it would have come close to what is normal behavior for many of his Japanese counterparts.”

Japan Forward may not have said it so explicitly, using a question mark rather than an exclamation mark, but many see systemic xenophobia in the Japanese business community.

Nikkei Asian Review was even more condemning: “There is no indication that other board members made actual moves in terms of governance processes or statements at the board level, [Nicholas Benes, head of the Board Director Training Institute of Japan and a former investment banker] noted. This makes him suspect that the board members were more concerned about protecting their jobs than confronting [Ghosn]…. If individual board members, including CEO Hiroto Saikawa, felt so strongly about the issue that they allowed a criminal investigation, they should have taken steps first. These could have included proposing to discuss the issue at the board level, trying to call an extraordinary board meeting, threatening to resign or getting advice externally. No such internal moves appear to have been taken before the prosecutors’ move to arrest Ghosn. Under Japanese company law, directors are expected to actively participate in discussions and oversee the chief executive.”

There are several recent Japanese business scandals:

In 2015 Toshiba revealed that it had overstated its operating profit by nearly $1.2 billion.

In 2017 Takada had become mired in a global scandal over faulty airbags. Ammonium nitrate was used to inflate airbags quickly, some with such force, they spewed shrapnel at drivers and passengers leading to injuries and in some cases, death. Takada was forced to recall millions of airbags which, along with facing a multi-million dollar wave of litigation.

In 2017 Kobe Steel admitted to changing or falsifying data about the quality of some of its goods before they were shipped to customers.

In 2018 Nissan admitted its emissions and fuel economy tests for its cars sold in Japan had “deviated from the prescribed testing environment”.

Japan’s Criminal Justice System

Counterpunch has detailed the inhumanity and authoritarian nature of the Japanese criminal justice system. The current laws are from 1947. Except for omitting offences relating to war, the imperial family and adultery, the 1947 Penal Code remained virtually identical to the 1907 version. This means that there has been no substantial revision for 113 years, as this post is written in 2020.

Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor, stated: “If you admit to the crime you’re arrested for, you’re released on bail relatively quickly. However, if you dispute the charges or claim innocence, you will be detained longer. You won’t be released on bail and your detainment will last weeks. You’re basically held hostage until you give the prosecutors what they want. This is not how a criminal justice system should work in a healthy society.” Cases detailed in the same article explain this further.

Beirut Press Conference

At the press conference held in Beirut 2020-01-08, Ghosn compared his arrest to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He said his prosecution on charges of financial misconduct was politically motivated, the result of an elaborate conspiracy involving malevolent Nissan executives and even the Japanese government, a systematic campaign to destroy his reputation and impugn his character. He further claimed that Japanese authorities were repaying him with evil, because he was an easy target as a foreigner. Further information about the press conference can be found in numerous online news sources, including this report in The Guardian.

Humanity Plus: A tidbit

An artists rendering of a Bernal Sphere, a hollow non-rotating spherical shell 16 km in diameter, with a target population of 20 000 to 30 000 people, and filled with air. The space habitat was intended as a long-term home for permanent residents. It was first proposed in 1929 by John Desmond Bernal. Artwork: Rick Guidice, 1976.

The definition of transhumanism used by the World Transhumanist Association is: an advocacy, for the ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities.

For religious transhumanists, the operative word is ethical.

Some early writers:

J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964) Daedalus: Science and the Future, 1923

J. D. Bernal (1901-1971) The World, the Flesh and the Devil, 1929

W. D. Lighthall (1857-1954) The Law of Cosmic Evolutionary Adaptation: An Interpretation of Recent Thought, 1940, discussed in, Peter Harrison & Joseph Wolyniak, The History of ‘Transhumanism’. Notes and Queries 62, 2015, 465–7

Julian Huxley (1887-1975) Transhumanism, in, New Bottles for New Wine, London: Chatto & Windus, 1957, pp. 13-17  

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016) Steps Toward Artificial Intelligence, 1960.  

I. J. Good (1916-2009) Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine, Advances in Computers, vol. 6, 1965.  

Note: This post was intended to be a chronology of Transhumanism. It was originally written 2018-07-11 and saved at 20h13m36s. It is published in this inferior state to acknowledge that the topic is no longer being prioritized by this writer, and to encourage others, who may have an interest in the subject, to create related, but more interesting, in-depth weblog posts.

A tidbit is can be defined as: 1: a choice morsel of food. This usage dates from about 1640; 2: a choice or pleasing bit (as of information). In this weblog, tidbits will refer to shorter draft posts, that have been awaiting editing and expansion for at least six (6) months.

Industrial Arts, Craftsmanship & Values

The 1950s and the 1960s were a privileged time. Yet, there are only some aspects of it that I would want to return to. It was exceedingly sexist. Men worked outside the house, while women were confined inside suburban houses. At school, girls were required to study home economics which was in general divided into two sections, textiles (with an emphasis on sewing) and cooking (and nutrition). Boys were required to study industrial arts.

I am not going to mention more about home economics in this post, except to say that I probably would have benefited from learning more about cooking. Similarly, many girls would have benefited, if they had been allowed to study industrial arts.

Industrial arts was obligatory for four (later three) years. One period a week was devoted to draughting, and the construction of technical drawings. The other days were spent working in one of three subject areas, each for a third of the school year, in rotation.  The subject areas were woodworking, metalworking and electricity and electronics. For my last two years of secondary school, I took a two year specialization in electricity and electronics. Others were able to specialize in other areas, such as house construction or automotive mechanics. Some people didn’t take any practical subjects at all, after the obligatory years.

There is a Norwegian term, sløyd, that roughly translates as woodwork. Here children use obsolete hand tools to make objects that are either obsolete themselves, or are made in a fraction of the time by industrial machines. I am not sure why sløyd is taught. It shows a great deal of disrespect to children, and the value of their time.

In industrial arts, we learned how to use hand tools, but we also progressed rapidly to machine tools. One does not waste time using a hand saw if a compound mitre saw is more appropriate. This does not mean that the Canadian industrial arts program was perfect. In metalwork, I learned to work with sheet metal, blacksmithing and machining. However, I was never exposed to welding.

Fast forward fifty years …

I am tired of sitting around cafes, gossiping while consuming sugar rich drinks and cakes. Something similar can be said of gyms with their sweat enhanced fragrances. I want to invite people to use their time more constructively, by using the workshop at Unit One. Yes, there will be a “fredag fika” a Swedish term for a sociable coffee break often held on Fridays. It is designed to help bond and consolidate a group of workers. At Unit One it should allow people to discuss projects: present, future and (if necessary) past.

Before people will be allowed to use equipment on their own, they will have to be certified. The first will have to be for general health and safety. When a person enters Unit One, they have to know where their own personal protective equipment is located. Similarly, they will have to know what they are expected to do, during different types of emergencies, including fire and assorted forms of personal injury.

When it comes to certification to use the various tools, one approach is to test out a person using the specific machine. A better approach is to have the aspirant design and make a product that requires a number of different operations on a variety of machines.

Certification misses one vital element – the motivation to work.

Perhaps one should begin with the Arts and Crafts movement, and acknowledge the contributions of William Morris, and several others. That is not going to happen. The two contemporary (?) works that are most inspiring are both written by David William Pye (1914-1993): The Nature of Design (later The Nature & Aesthetics of Design), 1964 and The Nature and Art of Workmanship, 1968.

The workmanship of risk is one of Pye’s most important concepts. It is “workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works (The Nature and Art of Workmanship, p. 20).

He also wrote that people make things to effect change. However, most designed objects are palliative. They do not enable new behaviours. He uses a transport example to illustrate this. One can walk instead of using a car, but one cannot fly instead of using a plane. He also notes that design is limited by economy rather than technique. Since all design is an economic trade off, it is always a failure.

Pye also regards design as arbitrary. Products are developed under the assumption that tools can bring people happiness. His view is that tools can, at best, only help people avoid unhappiness.

David Pye 2
David Pye (1914-1993)

There are two other writers that one may also want to read on the philosophy of work, Richard Sennett and Matthew B. Crawford.

Richard Sennett has written extensively about work. The Hidden Injuries of Class (1972) written with Johnathan Cobb is a study of class consciousness among working-class families in Boston. The Corrosion of Character (1998) explores how new forms of work are changing our communal and personal experience. Respect in a world of inequality (2003) examines the relation of work and welfare system reforms. The Culture of the New Capitalism (2006), much like the earlier Authority (1980) address similar issues.

Richard Sennett (photo: Ars Electronica, 2010)

Yet, it is the newer Homo Faber project that examines work in a 21st century context, an exploration of material ways of making culture. The Craftsman (2008), Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation (2012) and Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City (to be published in 2018) on the making of the urban environment.

Lewis Hyde states that Richard Sennett’s “guiding intuition” in The Craftsman is that “making is thinking.”

What I found particularly interesting about The Craftsman, was Sennett’s use of computer programmers as an example.

I will now elegantly hop over Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) to focus on a 21st century replacement, Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (2009). In addition to obtaining a Ph. D. in political philosophy, Crawford has also worked as an electrician and mechanic, and owns and operates Shockoe Moto, an independent motorcycle repair shop.

matthew b. crawford
Matthew B. Crawford (photo: Adam Ewing)

Crawford writes about work that requires mastery of real things. This work can be more intellectually demanding that more abstract varieties. He feels that maintenance and repair work cultivate ethical virtues, and foster habits of individual responsibility. Crawford wants people to replace passivity and consumerism with self-reliance.

Tools are not the most important elements in a workshop. It is the values that are promoted therein.

“It is permissible to study sciences and arts, but such sciences as are useful and would redound to the progress and advancement of the people. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Ordainer, the All-Wise.”

Baha’u’llah – Bisharat

Ageing Gracefully

No, I’m not writing about that impossible art of accepting the loss of one’s powers of movement, hearing, seeing, sexing, remembering, calculating or reasoning. Rather, I am writing about how our perception of time changes. In childhood, a year feels like infinity while in later life it feels increasingly shorter.

To accept this fact of life, a new time unit is needed which I have termed the Grace. A grace is a measure of time reflecting the opportunity for (spiritual) development, which occurs simultaneously with the growth and decline of the biological organism. Originally, I just used values between 0 and 9 to reflect this development. However, because people are used to dealing with chronological years, many people will want to use decaGraces to measure their spiritual age. It requires a simple calculation: multiply the Grace number by 10. DecaGraces are used in the table below.

As in school, aging is not the equivalent of being more spiritual or smarter. People reach a plateau that limits their intellectual, physical and spiritual development. Just as there are absolute physical limits to how fast a person can run, how many kilos a person can lift, there are also limits to how much spirituality a person can acquire in a world dominated by physical needs.

decaGrace Age at Start (years) Duration (years) Age at End (years) Event
0 0 Conception
10 0 0.25 0.25
20 0.25 0.5 0.75 Birth
30 Birth 1 year 1 year old
40 1 year old 2 years 3 years old
50 3 years old 4 years 7 years old
60 7 years old 8 years 15 years old
70 15 years old 16 years 31 years old
80 31 years old 32 years 63 years old
90 63 years old 64 years 127 years old