Eva Feder Kittay, ‘The Completion of Care’
Monday 5 September 2016
By Zoë Shacklock and Gaby Smith
- All care requires an uptake by another person – it is not care until it has been recognised as such by the object of care
- ‘To care’ is an achievement verb, which requires action, not simply intention
- Defining care through its reception avoids issues of paternalism
- We have a moral obligation to graciously receive care when it is offered to us in good faith (to avoid harming ourselves and our carers)
Eva Feder Kittay opened the conference with a discussion of how we formulate an ethics of care. She stressed that care is different from other virtues (such as justice), because its reception is integral to its success. Consequently, she questions what an ethics of care would look like if we defined it from its endpoint – from how it is received and/or completed.
Care cannot simply be an intention (although intentions still matter) – it has to be an action, and that action has to be taken up by the subject in a way that contributes to their flourishing.The only way to determine the moral value of an act of care is to think how the object of care will respond to that action. We can’t define this objectively, otherwise care becomes a form of paternalistic intervention.
She also stresses that care is a form of relation – it involves an active participation from all parties in that relationship. Accepting care is an act of agency that affirms the caregiving relationship. This means that we have a moral obligation to graciously accept care when it is offered in good faith – to neither reject care (harming both carer and cared-for) or to overdemand care.
Feder Kittay illustrated her discussion with personal anecdotes from her experience of being a carer for both her daughter and her mother, which resonated with the audience.