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Care as a Thick Ethical Concept

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Chadha-Sridhar, Ira  ORCID logo


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pPhilosophers who study care—most often, care ethicists—are involved in an ongoing discussion about the concept of care. Despite the significant progress made in this discussion, certain conflicting images of care seem to persist in the literature. On one hand, as feminist theorists across disciplines have highlighted, care is a complex social practice that is mired in inequality and injustice. The deeply gendered nature of caring and the unequal division of care-work creates and cements structural inequalities. On the other hand, care is also thought of as a moral value or an ideal. The ethics of care—a moral theory with decidedly feminist roots—is predicated on the idea that caring is somehow morally valuable. A discrepancy thus arises: care is a social practice that compounds injustices. But it is also a moral value. What is it about care that makes it malleable to such variations? To pick out this complexity and capture the conceptual nuances at play, this paper suggests that we frame the concept of care as a thick ethical concept. I will first demonstrate why this framing is helpful. Then, I will provide accounts of the descriptive and evaluative elements of the concept of care. I hope to show that it is through a thick conceptual framing that we can make sense of care—both as a complex social practice and an important moral value in the worlds that we inhabit.</jats:p>


Acknowledgements: I want to thank Lars Vinx for engaging closely with the arguments made in this paper and for his very valuable suggestions. For extremely helpful comments on earlier drafts I wish to thank Matthew Kramer, Jeffrey Skopek, Sandrine Berges, Pritam Baruah and the anonymous reviewers at Res Publica. I presented this paper at the Cambridge Political Philosophy Workshop, the LSE Graduate Political Theory Conference and the Young Scholar’s Workshop at Humboldt University. I am grateful to the participants of each of these sessions for their encouragement and feedback.


50 Philosophy and Religious Studies, 5001 Applied Ethics, 8 Health and social care services research, 8.3 Policy, ethics, and research governance, Generic health relevance, 10 Reduced Inequalities

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Res Publica

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