Caring as a Virtue


Unedited audio transcript from Google Recorder

Hello again, welcome back to ethics analytics and the duty of care. I'm Stephen Downes and I'm knee deep in module six. The duty of care in this particular, part of the presentation, we'll be looking at the idea of care as a virtue. Now, of course, we explored the idea of virtue ethics back in module five and here were sort of looking at the idea of a point.

Whereas as Howard Kerser, says, three of the most fashionable recent movements in ethics virtue ethics, medical, ethics and feminist, ethics intercept. I, I know that he's writing in 1993 before either the Gilligan's book or the nodding book were published. And so that, let's speak to a movement that was already existing before these contributions came into play.

Other, of course, there are earlier discussions and papers by both of them, nonetheless, you know, it points to the fact that there's this overall movement here and we don't have the, you know, the great author, a theory of ethics philosophy happening here, but that's an aside cursor. Takes a look at this and his his response is kind of what we might imagine.

Although as a philosopher, he's going to give us three thesis thesis a which is the idea of care as emotional attachment such as liking or loving or you know being in a relationship with in the sense we normally think of it as being in a relationship with someone as compared to thesis, be to benevolence as a role virtue for health care practitioners, which is the context in which this discussion takes place and be two.

Do I say be to the first time I meant be one b, two benevolence disposes, health care practitioners to perform caring acts. So we have two kinds of care here. Discussed care as emotional attachment, and care as benevolence one of them creates the attachment, I just finished doing the video on relationships and and we get a sense of what we mean by that from that video.

But the other sense disposes health care practitioners to perform caring acts this kind of abstracts out the the particular emotional content of caring. The part that I would say, arguably creates the the urgency or the motivation that actually creates a duty to act, according to care. Ethics, abstracts out of way and gives us what essentially is a behaviorist analysis.

The word disposes is a clue to that because in behaviorist theory, the idea it is that mental states can be described as or reduced to dispositions to act in such, and such a way Gilbert Rile. For example, in the concept of mind is very explicit about the character characterization of mental states as dispositions that can take us down a whole side inquiry because dispositions properly.

So called our counterfactuals, except in the very specific case where the disposition is instantiated, as an actual act, but then it wouldn't be a mental state. It would be pure behavior. Excuse me. My voice is getting raw from all of these videos. Anyhow cursor, not surprisingly favors the combination of B1 and B2 as opposed to a any says, indeed, emotional attachment is incidental and destructive to the practice of health care and indeed that the health care professional should be objective, quote, unquote.

Now, we've talked about objectivity already in previous videos and the difficulties with that concept, especially with, respect to ethics, and ethics of care. And I think those discussions apply here as well, but it does. Raise the idea of caring as a virtue as opposed to say, caring as the description of an act or caring as even the description of a relationship.

You know, if we think of caring orally capacity care as the property of the carer rather than an analysis of the interaction, there's the suggestion here that we might learn more about it. So, you know, cursors, conclusion, not withstanding. I think he's on to something here, at least as something worth exploring, and it does come up in the ethics of care literature.

And again, you know, it's the sort of thing, you kind of have to interpret that, it's there. But coming from the background that I've just sketched in the previous modules, we're sort of, you know, have half an eye open for it anyways, just in case and so, you know, you can see it in that way and we'll talk about that in this video.

So, let's begin. We'll jump from the health care perspective to the teaching perspective. Although, all of this could be applied to health care. And it could all be applied to any of the, the caring professions. And that's the idea of the teacher, as an authority or, you know, the person providing the care as an authority and it is by virtue of the properties.

Their own properties that they acquire this capacity. And we can look at the list of productive leadership in the classroom from savage and savage for, you know, just just a model to use. It doesn't matter exactly how we cash this out. But, you know, we, this is typical right.

The authority of a teacher, is based on legitimacy, they're in a position or a role. They're based on the teachers capacity to rewards such as grades and certificates. In some instances, they acquire authority from their ability to punish this is, especially the case with teachers and children more to the point though, the authority aspect as teacher.

Qua, teacher comes from being an expert, having superior knowledge, I get that sometimes where people differ to what I say, just because the presumption is, I have superior knowledge. I know more about the subject than they do. So they want to listen to me and we'll defer what I say.

And then finally perceive this caring, also confers authority with the best interests of students in mind. So that's the professionalism aspect. Now, all of these could be thought of as attributes of the teacher, right? All of these put together could give us this picture of the teacher as authority payment.

Such that caring is one of these properties of an authority figure as it's presented here by Savage and Savage. And just as I may be grossly, mischaracterizing savage and savage. I don't care if I do care, but you know what I mean? I'm using them as as a tool.

I'm using this diagram as a tool only. I'm not going for an accurate representation of what they actually say. So if it is a misrepresentation, I'm sorry. But yeah, you get the idea, right? They say, developing productive. Leadership in the classroom is based on the establishment of expert and reference authority.

It's the the bottom two, right? Which is propert of the teacher, right? Being knowledgeable and caring about the development of the student nodding talks about this kind of role as well. Teachers feel a duty to know and to use our knowledge to initiate the young into a community of of knowing, right.

So our knowledge is a virtue that we have that helps motivate this duty. In fact we wouldn't have a duty to teach would we if we didn't already possess the virtue of having knowledge worth teaching, which puts me in a tough situation. But that's adjust. So how do we characterize what that virtue is that is teacher should have well, that's what we run into problems.

Not in continuous, the world is now. So enormously complex, that we cannot reasonably describe one model of an educated person carers, dedicated to their own view of what the cared for should be and do lack integrity. This is an important concept here. I'm sort of turning it on its head.

Okay. Knottings is talking about the illegitimacy of a person using their authority, to impose, some sort of idea of what a person should be. And what a person should do onto their students. And that in itself is a radical notion. But turning that around, it would be equally irresponsible for us as Ephesus to impose our point of view on what teachers should be.

And teachers should, do you see you see the move that I'm making here? So, right off the bat, there's a bit of a question of the legendimacy of talking about the virtue of a teacher, or in a virtue of a medical professional etc from even email our terms. And we need to be careful about that.

It doesn't mean we can't talk about it though. It just means. I think that different virtues will be relevant in different contexts. And what will constitute the virtue of a teacher or the virtue of a medical? Professional will vary from circumstance to circumstance. And so if we're talking to a teacher, say about their ethical status, with respect to say, their knowledge or their capacity to care, our discussion has to be between us based on a relationship between us where we've actually talked about it for a bit and based in actual concrete circumstances, but we can still talk about it.

And so we shall one aspect of the virtue of a carer is empathy and we've touched on that above already and we're going to talk about it now a bit more precisely because it's not in notes, some writers are interested some writers interested in carer ethics, put great emphasis on empathy, half quoting Hoffman.

For example, empathy is the cognitive awareness of another person's. Internal states that is, is thoughts feelings, perceptions, and intentions and very importantly the vicarious effective response to another person. And you see the two aspects here. Excuse me. One is we might say. I know how your feeling the other aspect is and I feel it too, right?

You need both aspects. Mostly when people talk about empathy, they talk about the second, the actual feeling that someone has, you know? And I think most of us get that from time to time. I, we talked, you know, another discussion about the effect of mirror neurons and how one person's affect of state can be mirrored in someone else's.

I talked about being a fan of failed videos and when somebody crashes, their bicycles say, and they go through a painful event, I have a vicarious reaction. I got, oh no, you know, very much in sympathy with the person who's just their bicycle. So that's the part that we talk about, but the other part, you know, actually getting the going to be awareness.

That's kind of a skill. Perhaps, you know, it's a bit much to say that we can know what the other person's thoughts, feelings, perceptions and intentions are, but we certainly make inferences to them. And some people I think depict empathy as being able to do this with some degree of accuracy.

I don't know if there's a natural capacity to be more or less good at doing that. You know, we could conduct psychological experiments but then we're bugged down into what do we mean by thoughts? What do you mean by feeling? Perceptions? Intentions etc? Yeah. How would I know that I have correctly?

Interpreted the intention of another person if I don't know what an intention is. And and okay, so we get into a discussion. Well what is an intention? I'm not sure. I know what an intention is, you know, I can make a prediction about what I think a person is going to do.

And in fact, my success in driving in traffic, depends on that. But that's not the same as making a mental leap and ascribing to them, a particular mental state. It's just a prediction about. Yeah, they're going to turn left. So you know, we need to be careful about what we mean.

When we talk about empathy in the end, I'm going to talk about sensations and I'm going to talk about sentiments and in and among the sentiments is probably something like the capacity to predict what's going to happen but whether that's a virtue properly. So called as distinct from simply capacity to predict what's going to happen.

I think is you know, well it's almost been irrelevant question, anyhow. The the idea in ethics of care theory is that empathy may be related to the motivational effect of care and cursor actually does recognize that this is the case that there is an impact that relationships will have an impact on motivation but but the perception here is that this should be more of an object of disposition to care for the other person as opposed to an emotional need to care for another person.

But the question here, then becomes, you know, can you create a duty out of a disposition or do you actually need a motivation, right. And this is where we come back to him who would say, you know, it is the passions that is the motivations and inclinations to act that rule here.

Even if we had a disposition to act, that does not in itself, rise to the level of ethics. Because that would give us things like ethical machines simply on the basis of the observation that a machine counterfactually will act in a certain way, when presented with certain circumstances, you know.

For example, a sentiment detection, algorithm might respond with the message there there, right? And, you know, it seems like, you know, care, right? But really, it's just a disposition detect, the sentiment go care or they're there. That doesn't really seem to be actual care and it doesn't really seem to be an ethical response or more from the point and ethic a response based in ethics.

And the other side of it is empathy by itself isn't enough to generate the, the caring response empathy is into substitute for expressed response just because you feel something just because it makes you go, you or whatever isn't enough, the response for. And here I'm quoting nodding, so the response for or sorry, the response of the cared for completes the caring relation.

So it's what they say back after you've done it without it, there is no caring relation no matter how hard the carer has tried to care. So saying there, there doesn't mean that you care and actually has to have an impact on the person you've said there there to.

And it's this interplay back and forth, and that's where the the disposition fails, right? Simply a disposition. Isn't enough to create this, this ethical aspect of caring. I mentioned earlier I'll talk about empathy as a sensation and I think this is an important thing though. Now, a sensation isn't all by itself, a motivation to act, and certainly a sensation isn't all by itself.

And example of caring, but it is the starting point, right? It's the, the idea of empathy as the thing that makes us actually do something simply, simply having the empathy isn't enough. That's what the cartoon says right, I appreciate all your empathy, but what I really need is some money.

So now we have the expressed need and if you want motivated to respond to that express to me, here we have the rich person, not really willing to respond to the expressed need of the hobo, then you have what might be called. Kind of an empty empathy, right? The feel for the person but not so much that it generates an ethical obligation on your own part.

But anyhow it does, you know, we we do have, you know, a lot of ways of looking at you know our relationship with other people both in person and online and our relationship with other being whether they be machines animals, whatever to as a study of our own response.

I also mentioned in this slide cognitive versus emotional empathy by Jody Clark. And I think we can cash that out to some degree as knowing, what the mental state is, as opposed to feeling or responding to the mental state, or maybe I shouldn't say mental state. I mean this, this whole concept of empathy implies, you know, this architecture of mental states in the other person and we are going to access them and then maybe draw them out.

Name them feelings of oppression and feelings of hopelessness feelings of pain, whatever. But our categorizations here are probably hopelessly wrong or more to the point hopelessly empty in that. You know, the word say, pain may or may not refer to a distinct status of neural states and the, you know, the, the concept of pain actually may represent a cognitive and linguistic, construct on our part and on the part of society and not correspond to anything that the other person actually has, or is feeling.

So again, we come back to the question, is all of this stuff, this capacity, just do all of that a virtue, you know. I think we can talk about maybe they're being a virtue in having a sensation, which we call empathy, which we depict, as feeling the same thing that they're feeling which motivates to us to act, that might be a virtue.

Certainly, it seems to be a property or a capacity of a person and if it has ethical importance, then we could say that it's a virtue but we want to be careful here, right? We don't want to read too much into this. We don't want to make virtues out of things that where there may not actually be any virtue attached such as the characterization of a certain set of responses and our feelings about that, as an attribution of quote, unquote pain.

I know that that's horribly complex and I don't want it to be complex like that. But, you know, when we start talking about curb personal capacities as virtues, you know, it's kind of important to talk about what you really mean by that. What is it about that capacity? That makes it a virtue versus what aspects of that capacity are purely incidental.

And just the way we happen to do it. Now, nonetheless, notings and others, talk about the capacities of people to care. Not any says, explicitly people have various capacities for caring that is for entering into caring relations as well as for attending to objects and ideas and that's where we come back to the discussion of factors.

That impinge on or our barriers to our ability or our capacity to care the wide range of social and environmental and relationship factors that come into this, for example. And here's a few, right? The social construction of caring as feminine and best less worthwhile, the churn of clients. The, you know, what's creates an inability to actually develop a relationship with any of them associated responsibilities caused by digital technology, or digital red tape, and then work related stress.

That can create implicit biases, etc. All of these impact on the actual capacity. We have to be caring and to give care. And I think both of those things being ring and giving care, both of those are reflected. I don't think of them as the same thing and so kind of implicitly.

We're talking about caring as a capacity which we can have to more or less a degree and as a capacity in an ethics of care and presumably that capacity is a virtue. But again I think we want to be careful about what aspect of that is the actual virtue.

Because, you know, we don't want to say for example, that, you know, if a person is, you know, if that capacity is treated as less worthwhile by society, it doesn't find. And and because of that, the ability to express that capacity is diminished, we don't want to say that.

As a result, the person in question is less virtuous and that's a really important concept, right? When we do virtue ethics, we're talking about the nature of the person themselves, you know, I was developed through experience training, personal development working on myself, etc. But, you know, we we rarely talk about the external conditions that impact that virtue and somebody might think of a person who is wise and moderate and temperate etc as being more virtuous.

But here I think we need to say and we need to be clear about this that if a person is raised in conditions that act against those capacities being developed in them, you know, they're less moderate less temperate, etc. That doesn't buy itself, make them less virtuous, that wouldn't make sense, right?

Because how can a person be thought of as less virtuous by virtue of factors over, which they have no control at all. That's not reasonable. So take two people. One person who's been raised in a good home with a good family who's able to exercise moderation. And then other person who's been raised in a poor home with an abusive family who shows less of an ability to exercise moderation, you know, playing virtue ethics says, the first person is more virtuous, but understanding that the various capacities that a person has, is, are impacted by all of these relationships around them.

That tells us that no, if this person is being as moderate as they can be under the circumstances, then they are as virtuous as the first person. And if you think that that's not intuitively, right? Let's relate it to generosity as a virtue, right? And we can measure generosity in terms of dollars, donated, kind of, it's not the best measure but it'll do for our purposes.

So all other things being equal a person is more generous if they don't eat more dollars. So now we have Bill Gates who has donated. I don't know if 30 billion dollars and we have me who has donated, shall we say considerably less is Bill Gates, more generous than me.

Well, all kinds of things factoring to my inability to donate a billion dollars or 30 billion dollars. The least of which being I don't have 30 billion dollars and there were social and economic and other reasons for that. So, is it right to say that bill gates is more virtuous than me because he donates more money and thus is more generous?

Well, no. That doesn't make sense at all. We wouldn't say that he's, you know, more virtuous than me on the unmanned account, we could do your percentage calculation, bill gates, donated, half of his, well, I can't donate half of my wealth either because again, if I don't donate half of my, well, I'm going to be in deep financial trouble.

Yeah. Maybe not destitute. So, I mean, you know, when we do percentages it becomes. Now, actually conceivable that I could do it. But still, there's a difference between the virtue of Bill Gates donating half of his well, and me donating half of my wealth. So, you know, it all comes back to what I said in an earlier slide, right?

All of the complexities, make it pretty much impossible to talk in general terms about the virtue of a person, even with respect to their caring capacities. So we make the observation that people have various capacities for caring, but that variability does not translate directly or possibly in any way on their ethical capacity to care or their the ethical value of their caring.

If we want to talk about, ethics is something that can be measured. Once we probably don't. Still, we can identify the virtuous dispositions and Toronto does that. If it's funny, you always as a ghost through this like, you know, I go through this and say, well, you can't do it, but here's a place where they do it.

Well, you can't do that, but here's a place where they do it and that's a pretty common pattern. So we have four elements or sub elements of care that can be thought of as virtues. We'll come back to the second part of the discussion in just a moment. Here are trying toes force of elements attentiveness or a proclivity to become aware of need which is a bit hand wavy responsibility or a willingness to respond and take care of need.

So we've got proclivity. We've got will competence or this skill of providing good and successful care and that goes back to the expertise, perhaps for the knowledge that a teacher might have and then finally responsiveness or consideration of the position of others. So proclivity will skill and consideration. So yeah, I mean these are ways that we could talk about somebody being more or less caring or more or less able to care.

But again none of these should be thought of as absolute scales. We would take a tentativeness, for example, a person with ADHD, you know, an attentiveness disorder has less of a capacity to show attentiveness than a person without that disorder. But that does not mean that a person without that disorder is ethically better than the person with the disorder.

At least I would hope not right because the person with the disorder is unable to do anything about it. And so, you know, a lack in their capacity that results from the disorder is certainly not something that they're ethically responsible for and so shouldn't be something we say is an ethical lapse on their part.

I tomorrow, let's a degree. We could say the same about all of the rest of these things. Including even willingness, you know, the will is one of these mythical characteristics of people and there's a whole history of that but different people have different will if you will then others right?

Or you know maybe we can express it in terms of numbers different degrees of will power is a person with less will power less ethical than a person with more willpower. Well, if it's something that they can't really change in themselves. Why would it be an ethical responsibility? This is especially important when we consider some of the origins of the duty of care and the care ethic generally.

We we mentioned earlier about galligan responding to Coburg and about both of them being influenced by Piaget and they talk about a repyag talks about different stages of cognitive development. And so we draw the analogy different stages of ethical development. And that shows up here specifically in this discussion from Toronto, the difference stages of ethical development, the virtuous dispositions, the different stages of these virtuous dispositions.

So that a person perhaps be moves from being less ethical to more ethical by building these capacities or these virtues in themselves, and that is kind of what she needs in order to develop an ethic. But if they're dispositions, if they're properties of the person that you are now, it's not clear that not having them, is an ethical lapse.

And I know, it sounds like I'm talking in circles here, but you can't make people ethically responsible for things. They can't change, I think and that applies as much in care ethics as it doesn't any ethics, right? Ethics does seem to involve and require some kind of agency, and we focus a lot in the ethics of care.

On the agency of another person but these relationships are two way and we have to also reflect on the agency of the person who was giving the care. And if you do the best you can under the circumstances with who you are and what you can do, it seems to be to be ethically as good as someone, who is a natural caregiver.

I doesn't mean we might not prefer the other person to give care. I know I'd rather be cared for by a person who's naturally good at it, but maybe exercising 60% of our capacities, that a person who's not very good at it, doing the very best that they can, but that's not an ethical calculation anymore.

And that's something else. And I think that's an important point here.

It does raise an aspect of care. You know the relationship aspect caring always happens in unequal relationships. No I shouldn't say that. I don't think that is true. In many cases caring involves unequal relationships, that's better. And a lot of these like parenting and teaching, you know, our transitory, they're not permanent, but the actual relationship of care actually does flow out of that unequalness.

But unequal relationships are, ethically, problematic. And that's, it's kind of an interesting thing here. You know, the relationship with another person.

Is, you know, if it is unequal then creating an ethics where you create an equality in that relationship is ethically difficult. And so we have the virtue of care as somebody as having actually more capacity than any other treating. The other person as equal to themselves and and that gets a bit hard to to realize as an ethical stance.

You know, in the danger of this is that really your creating is ethically valueable relationships. Where one person is the giver. And the other person is the taker where despite the giver being dominant, they're both being treated as equal. Where the ethical value of the relationship is derived from one of these people being actually being a dependent, which means you can't have ethics without dependence and that seemed wrong as well.

I think that the last slide I have on this, let me just check. Yeah. So that's where I'm gonna end this particular discussion, which you can see, it's a hard and, and I would argue pretty much impossible to reinterpret the ethics of care as a virtue ethic. It's heard because of some of the inherent flaws, in virtue ethics that don't take into account.

This specificity that, the ethics of care takes into account. They treat these virtues as absolutes, without respect to the particular circumstances, either the carer or the recipients of care may find themselves in. And, you know, we depict the relationship between the carer and the cared for is unequal, whether there is this amassing of virtue on the part of the carer.

But in fact, you know, it's not necessarily going to be like that and like dearly we we want these relationships to be equal and two way. But that means just as we have to look at the relationships of dependence, on the care receiver. We also have to look at the relationships and dependence of the caregiver and allow for caregivers who aren't very good at giving care nonetheless through their efforts still being virtuous, right?

So it's not a property of the person that makes caring ethical and I think that pretty much the case. And so I'm going to treat with caution arguments about the degrees of care or the, the growth of an ethical person from being less, ethical for more, ethical, through different stages of care.

I think those are the impositions of externally objective framework frameworks that aren't really fair to the career in question because, you know, as as the same writers point it out, they might not be in a position to be able to exercise all the care that they could or should in a given circumstance, okay?

I'll leave that there. I know that was a bit convoluted, but the take home from that is the ethics of care isn't a virtue ethics or shouldn't be thought of one. It isn't about whether a person has care inside, and not makes them more virtuous. And that's really important.

If we go back to the feminist roots of ethics of care. And it's not about, for example, women inherently being more virtuous, because they have these capacities that other people don't have, it is not the fault of people who are not women that they don't have the capacities of women, and it doesn't make them less.

Ethical every carer has different capacities. And the circumstances in which they find themselves in a relationships that they find themselves, are factors beyond their control and arguably, and I would argue not relevant to the ethics of their actions, all right? That's it for this section. We'll come up with duty and community in the next video.

So, I'm Stephen Downes. Bye for now.