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

Bakhurst on Vygotsky’s perezhivane

After the interesting analysis of Gadamer’s theories applied to teach, we have been asked to continue our learning process through the reading of Bakhurst’s reflections on Vygotsky’s perezhivanie. 

At first I had the feeling to be in front of one of the top definition of “Ethos”, while Bakhurst unpacks the significance of the Russian notion perezhivanie by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, especially for educational theory.

The term, meaning “thick experience”, has not found a precise translation into English, and therefore has been imported as it is.

If Gadamer was somehow describing the ideal scenario of “when” education takes place, being an active exchange of knowledge between two (or more) actors, I’d say that Vygotsky rather focuses on “how” the learning curve is structured, by listing a number of 6 virtues that indicate the successful completion of the academic journey. 

Those virtues are:







To begin with, I’d argue if we may consider nowadays “Inclusivity” as the 7th Virtue of educational experience, which in my view by definition it’s the one the embraces all qualities and characteristics of a “thick experience”, reflecting on the complexity of the human being as opposed to the “thin” concept of sensory experience. Furthermore, I would also question that challenges, confusion and failure, might turn out to be positive encounters through the learning process, that perhaps help the student either to reinforce her choice or clarify/modify her chosen path.

Having to reflect on how these six qualities have arisen in my own educational experience, I think it’s worth mentioning that I had already gained some experience in the industry, when I first approached the University as a student, and even now that I play the double role of Associate Lecturer at UAL, and student of the PgCert, I still keep a solid foot as a creative practitioner in the business world.

What’s the difference between students who have no working experience?

I would consider myself a “difficult customer to please”, and consequently a lecturer who is aware of, and has concretely tested, the key elements required by the business world outside academic environments. 

This means that if a learning experience is evaluated by the presence of a feeling of “fulfilment”, the students might encounter a sudden discouragement when facing a similar situation in the workplace, that perhaps turns out to be rather depressing instead.

For example, if a student is given a graphic project to develop, the experience may result as:

Fulfilling and personal when developing the project, and presenting it in front of the group of peers, and tutors. Consequently, by answering questions by the audience and receiving feedback from the same can be inspiring, challenging and affirming, becoming a solid authentic experience.

But what if we take the very same assignment into the industry, and have to confront with various limits, such as budget, unfair critical evaluations, competitiveness, brand heritage, etc. 

Therefore, my conclusion is that the six virtues become a true vehicle of experience when opposed to their negative counterparts, building awareness both in the students and their teachers. What would happen, I wonder, if a learning journey faced only several challenges, and very little success, resulting if not in a complete failure, halfway it? Shall we assume that the learning process stops? I’d dare say, that even negativity could turn out in a great success, if the teachers are enough equipped to help the student navigates through difficulties, challenging qualities like resilience, determination, a strong will, and ultimately an analysis of those “accidents” that instead of discouraging, may be taken as “lesson learned” and help the person to clarify the desired outcome.

As an Associate Lecturer, during my teaching, I often reflected on what can make a significant difference between myself and a colleague, as well as what concretely distinguish the UAL from any other University of the same kind. This reflection has brought me to consider the Vygotsky’s 6 virtues in form of University Ethos, to which I add the 7th, being inclusivity, as well as equality, one of the first and most important subjects at the core of our delivery. If an educational experience takes place in a situation in which everyone feels included, and equal, I believe that is the perfect ground where cultural exchange can take place, and take shape of a successful learning journey having all 6, and perhaps more virtues included. 

I have visually referred to a photograph of an artwork by Chelsea College fellow student and artist Anish Kapoor, that seems to be based on the Fibonacci mathematics sequence. In the Fibonacci sequence, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. Fibonacci omitted the “0” included today and began the sequence with 1, 1, 2,

My consideration is that the Fibonacci sequence, as well as Anish Kapoor’s artwork, express both harmony and equilibrium within the art form. The numbers don’t follow the traditional sequence but create a new one, a meaningful code on which the analysis of music, astronomy, and other subjects is often based. So, I dare to say that “perfection lays in the imperfection”.

This is obviously a metaphor of my conclusions on the analysis of Bakhurst’s reflections, since I believe that by trying to keep a constant level of student’s engagement, through the delivery of multiple educational experiences (lecture, workshop, seminar, lesson), providing opportunities for working in group of peers, alone, and for networking, as well as a one-to-one moment for feedback, and evaluation through verification of the achievements, the institution in the figure of the teacher can offer a proficient learning experience in which perhaps the 6 virtues won’t always be present altogether, but the sum of each tuition through the academic year, might finally add a positive element to the process of learning, resulting in an “authentic” thick experience.

Micro Teaching // Angel

For the “Micro-Teaching” task, that we’ve been asked to deliver during the group session of the Teaching & Learning  Unit, I decided to test on my peers an activity, that I would like to further develop and implement in my teaching practice, perhaps in form of a lecture or workshop with my students.

The steps I have taken to design the session were:

  1. Personal preparation:
    • Analysis of the academic course in which I’m presently teaching (MA Culture, Criticism, and Curation // Central St. Martin’s)
    • Identification of a subject, that may fit in the course structure and enhance my curriculum
    • Narrowing down the research of the topic, and choice of the object.
    • Planning an activity that is informed both my experience as creative practitioner, and my teaching practice
    • Final selection
    • Planning the activity and the learning outcomes
  • Personal preparation: Analysis of the academic course in which I’m presently teaching (MA Culture, Criticism, and Curation // Central St. Martin’s)

In order to fit the structure of the course, I decided to focus my attention on the role that objects play within a culture. My selection has been therefore based on an ethnographic approach that has taken the object into account just as much as the human being.

  • Identification of a subject that may fit in the course structure and enhance my curriculum. 

Challenging the multicultural background of my peers (This also applies in the context of the MA CCC), I decided to target a debate on the subject of religion, and belief.

My curriculum is enhanced by demonstrating, that I can research and identify elements of multicultural religions, and belief, through the analysis of the aesthetic of visual and artistic languages, in order to promote culture, challenging a better understanding of the medium.

  • Narrowing down the research of the topic and choice of the object.

The chosen object was a little sculpture reproducing an angel, that I positioned on top of the table in the center of the classroom, outside its traditional context and reference to monotheistic religions. The plan was to recreate a “white cube” scenario (a method often used in Museums and Art Galleries), where possibly start a more “neutral” conversation, that allows students to “play” with the object, and see it through the eyes of their emotions, as well as in reference to their personal experience/academic studies/creative practice.

  • Planning an activity that is informed both my experience as creative practitioner and my teaching practice

During my career as creative practitioner, I’ve often incorporated elements of faith and religion in my artistic production, mainly in form of photo exhibitions and painting of Christian icons. Through my experience I learnt that:

“An angel is generally a supernatural being found in various religions and mythologies. Each of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – all acknowledge the existence of angels, however, these are not the only faiths to believe in these spiritual beings. Angels also occur within the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Shintoism and Taoism. Angels are acknowledged by every monotheistic religion and occurs both in mythology and art around the world”.

  • Final selection 

I chose to present a small sculpture of a little golden angel.

Given the premises, that an angel is an iconic figure commonly embedded in our culture, that carries within its design references to religions and ancient mythology. Yet, the representation of an angel can be seen as a mere object of design spoiled of any “pre-concept”? The challenge was then for the object to be observed by different perspectives, with the hope to encounter the observation of someone who perhaps had no specific religious orientation.

  • Planning the activity and the learning outcomes

I planned to place the sculpture in the middle of the table,  where my peers seated around it could engage and play with it. I positioned myself outside the group of my peers, where I could watch the dynamics of their interactions without interfering.

Subsequently, I started to give some info and hints in regards to the object, while making questions fostering an active debate, that I moderated without driving my peers to any preconceived conclusion. The discussion was open to confrontation and the enjoyment of surprise.

The learning outcomes

By taking part in the learning activity, the students can:

  1. Know that angels occur in every monotheistic religion, as well as in mythology around the world.
  2. Distinguish between figurative representations of angels in a religious context and fine arts.
  3. Identify the places where Angelic figures can be found in our culture
  4. Understand that Angels are multicultural aesthetic elements

Micro-Teaching with my peers

When placing my object on the table, during the 10 minutes activity, I could immediately see the interest arising in my peers. I started with a brief explanation of my intention to test their reactions, to inform a similar activity for my students of the MA CCC. Everyone was happy to take part in this process and eager to help me gaining as many feedback as possible.
I asked my peers two main questions: “where can this object be found. And what is its function?”
I was pleased to notice that everything went accordingly to my plans, the object was not perceived as religious, and people actively engaged with it, touching it, and asking questions. A fruitful debate started almost immediately, and conversations in the beginning focus on the quality of the design, and its functionality. I moderated the interventions, adding the info that “Angels occurs in every monotheistic religion”, asking my peers to comment on it. Someone (luckily for my research on the task) had no affiliation to any creed and didn’t spot any religious connotation in the object.

Gadamer // Understanding Art: The play of work and spectator

“The diamond dress” by CSM Fellow designer, Mr Teerabul Songvich. Photo by Nick Night. The dress, that launched the career of Mr Teerabul, is part of the UAL archive (CMS). The designer’s approach to the process of making, is informed by the act of play, and in my view it seems to embody at many level Gadamer’s theories.

“All hermeneutic experience is a play-process” – Gadamer

Sometimes meaningful concepts at the base of human’s communication, and life, are told in formal ways, that tend to create distance, rather than comprehension. While reading the chapter about the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, in Monica Vilhauer’s book, ‘Ethics of Play’, I must confess I had to convey all my strengths to the noble cause of not loosing my attention. The content was extraordinary, however badly delivered in my humble opinion. I often wished the writer had written “This is what I think”, rather than “this is what Gadamer said, and it means… bla, bla.”

Although my comment may sound inappropriate in this context, it is indeed a provocation, for I believe that reflecting on Gadamer’s “Ethics of Play”, required a demonstration in terms of writing style, of his fundamental core points. The act of “play” was missing.

The fictional character of Professor Keating, alias Mr Robin Williams in the American film “The Dead Poet Society”, during a lecture told his students:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love – these are what we stay alive for”.

If Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation, including both verbal and non-verbal communication, the understanding does not consist in the reconstruction of the mere objective meanings of absolute and meta-historical truth, but in a continuous fusion of horizons where, the Heideggerian motif of the relationship between art and truth with Gadamer leads to a unfinished and infinite process of play between the interpreter and the work itself, which becomes a form of “Koinè”, a language, the so-called hermeneutic circle for which interpretation is a process that continually goes from the whole to the parts and vice versa.

Therefore scientific theories are no longer considered as the only ones in reference to the structure of existence as “being there-in-the-world” is revealed the sense of what the existence is, opposed to the Cartesian model of “being separate from the world of objects that I observe” .

A drama, a piece of music, come alive when it’s played in front of the audience in Gadamer’s theories. Likewise, I would assume a Lecture becomes a true experience of teaching, and learning, only when it takes place between a tutor and the students. Pondering on this reflection, I would therefore conclude that within the “hermeneutical dimension” of play, the three elements of equality, inclusivity and diversity are illuminated, and become source of quality and abundant richness. The participation of every individual to the game is therefore crucial to the success of the play itself, regardlessly the outcome. And by that I mean, that the outcome is informed by the active dialogue between the two actors, and therefore cannot be framed, but affected in its mutation from the starting point of analysis.

Seriousness has a fundamental role in the game, and the act of playing depends on it in whole. Hermeneutic philosophy had an increasingly relevant role in the debate of contemporary aesthetics and criticism.  By exploiting the resources in an “hermeneutical dimension”, the techno-scientific reductionism of the “Practical knowledge”, comes to “experience” a compenetration with the genuine participation of the spectator.

Gadamer’s reflection of the effects of “non-genuine” participation, leads to theories that are extraordinary particularly when applied to contemporary art criticism, and the debate around originals, replicas, multiples and so on.

“All encounter with the language of art, is an encounter with an unfinished event and is itself part of this event” – Gadamer

Group Session + Personal Presentation

Being a photographer, my presentation, during the Group session, has included a number of shots that I took either on assignment or while producing my own fine arts. The display was aimed to show the different fields I touch upon in my everyday professional practice as Photographer, Art Director, and Editor. I focused the narration on my academic background, in order to highlight the peculiar characteristics that contributed to shape my identity, and personality. Then I shifted to the professional experiences gained through my  25 years career, and the description of my curriculum in the fashion and advertising industry, Publishing Houses, music, contemporary arts and photography.

The group presentation was structured to allow each of the ten participants with a 5 minutes talk, in which discuss either the curriculum or personal experience in academia. The students could contribute with a  few visual slides, up to a number of 5. I chose to project an animated page, displaying my website, and the images that feature in this article. Most of my peers preferred instead to focus on the speech, and this seemed to me a successful choice for them, in particular for those who clearly showed some skills for public talk.  Observing the different styles of presentations was very interesting, as well as receiving feedback on my personal one. The group activity involved discussion with all students in regards to the way the speech was delivered, as well as the content. I found myself making often comments about the body language, self-confidence, while observing the variety of narratives. It’s fair to mention that every individual managed to distinguish in a very unique way, the variety of backgrounds, as well as experiences was rather exciting, and showed me the potential of enriching ourselves through open confrontations and debates. The session went on smoothly, and it was mainly conducted by us students. What I gained, it was to understand how sharing info on my personal background, could actually contribute to make people understand who I am. Coming from the industry, I must admit this behavior being rarely approved, whereas privacy is often considered a must. Professionals in my field tend to exclude any personal details from their practice, in order to be perceived “less human”, I guess, and therefore less at risk of failure. The life outside the working environment is the one that mostly engage your emotions, and this is often seen as a potential source of weaknesses. Finally we briefly discuss the chapter that was given us to read prior to the group session, at the introductory lesson of the 16th Jan.: “Reading, engagement and higher education’, Higher Education Research & Development, 38 by Aldridge, D.”. Some of the key concepts in regards to engagement, and engaging students in the learning activities started a fruitful debate around methodologies, and the different approaches in teaching. I personally found Aldridge’s reflections very intriguing, in a way the reminded me of some theories by Albert Einstein, particularly when the “alienation” is considered as an opportunity, or perhaps a challenge, to foster people’s engagement. The famous scientist said: “Humiliation and mental oppression by ignorant and selfish teachers wreak havoc in the youthful mind that can never be undone and often exert a baleful influence in later life.” And then added: “The real difficulty, the difficulty that has frustrated the sages of all times, is this: how can we make our teaching effective to the point that its influence on the emotional life of man can resist the pressure of the elementary psychic forces of the individual? We do not know, of course, if the sages of the past have really posed this question with the same awareness and in the same form; but we know how much they have tried to solve the problem.”

Creativity comes from anguish as the day comes from the dark night. It is in the crisis that inventiveness arises, discoveries and great strategies. Those who overcome the crisis surpass themselves without being ‘overcome’.

Who attributes his failures and difficulties to the crisis, violates his own talent and gives more value to problems than to solutions. The real crisis is the crisis of incompetence. The inconvenience of people and nations is laziness in seeking solutions and ways out. Without crisis there are no challenges, without challenges life is a routine, a slow agony. Without crisis there is no merit. It is in the crisis that emerges the best of everyone, because without crisis all the winds are only slight breezes. To speak of crisis means to increase it, and to be silent in the crisis is to exalt conformism. Instead, we work hard. Let’s finish it once and for all with the only dangerous crisis, which is the tragedy of not wanting to fight to overcome it. ”


Elena Arzani