What Do Women Want in a Moral Theory?

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Philosophy 3052
April 17, 2012

Annette Baier: “What Do Women Want in a Moral Theory?”
Throughout history, there have been traditional assumptions about male and female gender roles and stereotypes. Men are rational and women are emotional. “Men should be decisive and courageous, women should be submissive and meek; men should pursue amorous conquests, women should be faithful and chaste; men should be warriors, and women nurturers; men should lead, women should quietly follow”(Baier). For New Zealand born Annette Baier, in What Do Women Want in a Moral Theory?, she argues that women and men are fundamentally different in outlook. Baier is a scholar of Hume and a moral philosopher for whom trust is the key to fundamental moral notions. According to Baier, morality should not be governed by rules and codes, but by trust. From a feminist perspective, she writes about the idea of trust and distrust particularly between the genders. She claims that women operate in a different system of ethics than men. Women see things in terms of trust and cooperation and in a bilateral approach, ‘ethics of love.’ In contrast, men generally evaluate things in terms of outcomes and actions taken; a unilateral approach, an obligation. Baier claims that obligation is the primary preoccupation of male moral philosophers. The history of moral philosophy, having been written by men, does not account for this gender difference. However, a problem with the concept of obligation is, they fail to explain obligations to morally educate new members of the moral community. Baier gives us an example about war orphans who grow up without any love, later have no sense of obligation (for truth-telling or promise keeping). Who has failed in their obligation here? This brings us to the “bad parent case,” which basically states that a parent believes that he/she would not make a good parent due to lack of success while instilling moral values in their children. An obligation-based moral theory...
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