The Ethics of Care

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity” – (George Bernard Shaw – The devil’s disciple, 1897) 

We live in a controversial period of our history, being compelled to witness acts of terrorism on an everyday base and cruelty. Often behind this inexplicable scenarios there are games of power, and political choices, that no longer take into account the worth of humanity, and what it means to be human.

I, therefore, believe that a teacher can play an active role, helping to ignite the correct ethics of care in each student, by showing a correct approach that embraces both pragmatism and attention to inequity and social moral standards.

In the article “Ethics of care” by Laura D’olimpio, the debate focuses on the dichotomy between the emotional and rational approach to ethics, starting from the analysis of Immanuel Kant’s deontology and Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism theories, that ruled the 18thand 19thcentury. The ethics of care, embracing emotional aspects such as compassion, kindness, that have been considered for centuries typical qualities associated with women kind, becomes a flag from the feminist movement, defending women rights to be perceived as equal to men.

Furthermore, the article Feminist Ethics “aims to understand, criticize, and correct: the binary view of gender, the privilege historically available to men, and/or the ways that views about gender maintain oppressive social orders or practices that harm others, especially girls and women who historically have been subordinated, along gendered dimensions including sexuality and gender identity.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019)

Moving forward, the research analyses the intersectionality of key factors related to the female role in history, a hierarchical system of oppression not only based on gender and social inequality, but also race, disability for example. “The masculinity and femininity in play here are not racially unmarked (if only for the reason that gender is never racially unmarked)” (James 2013, 752).

The Italian political philosopher, Giovan Battista Vico (1668-1744) was the first expositor of the fundamentals of social science and of semiotics and became particularly important for a few ideas he introduced into Western philosophy, for his theory that, historically, civilizations cycle through three periods, from one governed by imagination, superstition, and custom to one governed by rational understanding, after which things always cycle around again.

School of Athens, Vatican, Raffaello Sanzio, 1509.

For example, the sexual orientation was not conceived as a social identifier by the ancient Greeks as it is now used by modern Western societies. Furthermore, in 1509, celebrated Italian painter Raffaello portrays within the “School of Athens” several homosexual artists, philosophers, and scientists, without encountering censorship. 

Four centuries later, the very same sexual orientation would cost the life of well-known artists such as Oscar Wilde, scientists such as Alan Turing, and more. Nowadays, businessmen are encompassing elements of “emotional intelligence” in their practice, evolving from pragmatic thinking to one that involves characteristics such as empathy, social skills, self-awareness and others, that accordingly to the article by Ms D’Olimpio belonged to the female gender.

The “Emotional Intelligence” also named “Emotional Intelligence Quotient” first appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch, it gained popularity in the 1995 book by that title, written by author and science journalist Daniel Goleman. It regards intelligence as “the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”.

The individual capability was never questioned in terms of “gender”, instead it was considered as a form of intelligence, that we all possess regardless of our sexual identity. This represents, in my opinion, a natural evolution of Kant and Bentham’s theories, and it reflects a fundamental change within our society and culture. When the two philosophers formulated their opinions, I doubt that issues such as multiculturalism, minority ethnics, gender equality, a different religion, and so on, may have played a significant role in the development of their theories. Back then, there was just one clear difference affecting genders within the society, and it was the one existing between a man and a woman.

Rather than considering the aspects of human personality and psyche as traits of one specific gender, we may refer to the big 5 personality traits, that are represented by the acronym OCEAN or CANOE:

Genetics, environment, are only two of the factors that can affect the differences between those five categories, however, none of them considers the person as a stereotyped product defined by gender, and therefore each individual can possess similar qualities, behaviours, fears, weaknesses and so on.

Nowadays would be reductive to consider the ethics of care only from the perspective of feminist care, and in my view, it should be analysed as something belonging to humankind. Furthermore, I would argue that present times are shaped by increasing research on Artificial Intelligence, and its implementation tells and will be telling, very much about our culture, and behaviours. It is therefore imperative, in my opinion, that we, at least in academic environments, do not underestimate the importance of communicating correct forms of moral values, caring, and social justice, that will inform the people of tomorrow, shaping their way of thinking but also their artworks, and delivery in the Industry.


Norlock, K. Feminist Ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019

D’Olimpio L. Ethics of Care, 2019 –

Goleman D. Emotional Intelligence, 1995

Shaw G.B. The Devil’s Disciple, 1897

Allen-Hardisty L. Emotional Intelligence: How Leaders Can Use it to Their Advantage. Queen’s IRC, 2018