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Social justice -- Ethical aspects, Justice, Feminist ethics, John Rawls (1921-2002) -- Philosophy -- Criticism and interpretation


Virginia Held has claimed that "there can be care without justice" but "there can be no justice without care." Alternatively, bell hooks has suggested that there can be "no love without justice." What is the relationship between justice and care? Does justice need an emotive, particularist, contextual aspect or is it fundamentally a universal and abstract concept?

Care ethics, as contemporary feminists have defined it, is only a quarter of a century old. When theorists were first struggling to distinguish this new ethical approach, some chose to sharply differentiate it from theories of justice. Now that care ethics has matured as a field, theorists no longer pit care and justice as purely oppositional, giving rise to new questions about how the two moral concepts relate to one another. As Annette Baier writes, "justice is a social value of very great importance, and injustice is an evil [however] other things matter [in moral theory] besides justice." One of those things is care.

One can only do so much in a short paper. Elsewhere I have claimed that care is foundational: all morality, including justice, emerges from our ability to care; although care is clearly an overlooked aspect of human existence. Accordingly, I do not see care and justice as antithetical or alternative theories but that attending to care has the potential to enrich our ideas about justice. In this paper, I suggest that care provides at least 3 important dimensions to justice: a motivational foundation for justice, an enlarged human ontology, and corrective to the temptation of gamesmanship.

I begin by discussing the nature of care ethics, then I turn to Rawlsian justice and address what care uniquely contributes social justice.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Social Philosophy Today. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Social Philosophy Today, 26:1, 2011.

*At the time of publication, Professor Hamington was affiliated with Metropolitan State University of Denver

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