Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: August 2013

1 - Women and the standpoint of concrete others

Summary

Que nous veulent les lois du juste et de l’injuste?

Baudelaire

γυμνωτέος δη πάντων πλην δικαιοσυνύνης

Plato

From the mid 1980s onwards an influential strand of feminist criticism of Rawls arose from a confluence of Gilligan’s moral psychology and Sandel’s communitarian critique which was subsequently turned against a certain kind of moral theory, including Habermas’s discourse ethics. In particular, Benhabib’s distinction between the standpoint of the generalised other and the standpoint of the concrete other was crucial to this debate and inspired many to follow this critical path. In my view, however, this distinction is misconceived, and the interpretation of Habermas’s discourse ethics to which it gives rise, mistaken. At best, it leads Benhabib to develop criticisms of Habermas’s conception of the moral standpoint, some of which are valid, though in need of further specification. However, neither these valid criticisms of discourse ethics, nor, I believe, the broader feminist critique of moral theory are obviously germane to feminism, and it remains unclear to this day how they advance the practical aims of feminist social criticism, such as the overcoming of ongoing injustice and the emancipation from patriarchal oppression.

References
Austin, J. L.Sense and Sensibilia. Oxford University Press, 1962.
Baier, Kurt. The Moral Point of View. New York: Random House, 1965.
Baier, Kurt. The Point of View of Morality. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 32:2 (1954), pp. 104–35.
Baynes, Kenneth. Habermas’s ‘Kantian Pragmatism’. In The Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory, ed. White, Stephen K.. Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 194–219.
Benhabib, Seyla. The Generalized and the Concrete Other: The Kohlberg–Gilligan Controversy and Feminist Theory. In Feminism as Critique. Essays on the Politics of Gender in Late-Capitalist Societies, ed. Benhabib, Seyla and Cornell, Drucilla. London: Polity Press, 1987, pp. 96–110.
Benhabib, SeylaSituating the Self: Gender, Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics. London: Routledge, 1992.
Benhabib, Seyla and Cornell, Drucilla, eds. Feminism as Critique. Essays on the Politics of Gender in Late-Capitalist Societies. London: Polity Press, 1987.
Benhabib, Seyla and Dallmayr, Fred R., eds. The Communicative Ethics Controversy (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought). Boston, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990.
Blum, Lawrence A., Gilligan, Carol and Kohlberg, Lawrence. Implications for Moral Theory. Ethics 98 (1988), pp. 472–91.
Dean, J.Discourses in Different Voices. In Feminists Read Habermas: Gendering the Subject of Discourse, ed. Meehan, Johanna. London: Routledge, 1995, pp. 205–30.
Finlayson, James Gordon. The Habermas–Rawls Dispute Redivivus. Politics and Ethics Review 3:1 (2007), pp. 144–62.
Finlayson, James GordonWhat are Universalisable Interests?Journal of Political Philosophy 8:4 (2000), pp. 446–72.
Finlayson, James Gordon and Freyenhagen, Fabian, eds. Habermas and Rawls: Disputing the Political. London: Routledge, 2011.
Flanagan, Owen and Jackson, Kathryn. Justice, Care and Gender: The Kohlberg–Gilligan Debate Revisited. Ethics 97 (1987), pp. 622–37.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, vol. III, Care of the Self. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990.
Fraser, Nancy. What is Critical about Critical Theory? In Feminists Read Habermas: Gendering the Subject of Discourse, ed. Meehan, Johanna. London: Routledge, 1995, pp. 21–56.
Geuss, Raymond. Philosophy and Real Politics. Princeton University Press, 2008.
Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982.
Gilligan, Carol. Remapping the Moral Domain. In Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Individuality, and the Self in Western Thought, ed. Heller, T., Sosna, M. and Wellbury, D.. Stanford University Press, 1986, pp. 237–52.
Habermas, Jürgen. Autonomy and Solidarity. Interviews with Jürgen Habermas, trans. and ed. Dews, P.. London: Verso, 1992.
Habermas, Jürgen. Die Einbeziehung des Anderen. Frankfurt-on-Main: Suhrkamp, 1996.
Habermas, Jürgen. Erläuterungen zur Diskursethik. Frankfurt-on-Main: Suhrkamp, 1991.
Habermas, Jürgen. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Lenhardt, Christian and Nicholson, Shierry Weber. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990.
Habermas, Jürgen. Reconciliation through the Use of Public Reason. Journal of Philosophy 92:3 (1995), pp. 109–31.
Hegel, G. W. F.Introductory Lectures on Fine Art, trans. Bosanquet, Bernard. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993.
Held, Virginia. Feminist Transformations of Moral Theory. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50: supplement (1990), pp. 321–44.
Held, VirginiaThe Meshing of Care and Justice. Hypatia 10:2 (1995), pp. 128–32.
Höffe, Otfried. Is Rawls’s Theory of Justice really Kantian?Ratio 26:2 (1984), pp. 103–23.
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. In The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, vol. III, trans. Gregor, Mary J., ed. Guyer, Paul and Wood, Allen. Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 37–108.
Kohlberg, Lawrence. Essays on Moral Development, vol. I, The Philosophy of Moral Development. Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.
Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, book II, 1954–55. Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Lukes, Steven. Of Gods and Demons: Habermas and Practical Reason. In Habermas: Critical Debates, ed. Thompson, J. B. and Held, D.. London: Macmillan, 1982, pp. 134–49.
MacKinnon, Catharine. Feminist Discourse, Moral Values, and the Law–A Conversation. The1984 James McCormick Mitchell Lecture. With Dubois, Ellen C., Dunlap, Mary C., Gilligan, Carol J. and Menkel-Meadow, Carrie J.. Buffalo Law Review 34:1 (1985), pp. 11–87.
McCarthy, Thomas. Kantian Constructivism and Reconstructivism: Rawls and Habermas in Dialogue. Ethics 105 (1994), pp. 44–63.
McCarthy, Thomas. Reply. In Habermas and Pragmatism, ed. Aboulafia, Mitchell. London: Routledge, 2004.
McMahon, C.Ethics and Dialogue. Ethics 110 (2000), 514–36.
McNaughton, D. and Rawling, P.. Value and Agent-Relative Reasons. Utilitas 7 (1995), pp. 31–47.
Maihofer, Andrea. Care. In A Companion to Feminist Philosophy, ed. Jaggar, Alison M. and Young, Iris M.. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998, pp. 383–92.
Markus, Maria. Women, Success and Civil Society. Submission to, or Subversion of the Achievement Principle. In Feminism as Critique. Essays on the Politics of Gender in Late-Capitalist Societies, ed. Benhabib, Seyla and Cornell, Drucilla. London: Polity Press, 1987, pp. 96–110.
Marx, Karl. The German Ideology. New York: International Publishers, 1970.
Mead, George H.Mind, Self and Society. University of Chicago Press, 1967.
Meehan, Johanna. Feminism and Habermas’s Discourse Ethics. Philosophy and Social Criticism 26:3 (2000), pp. 39–52.
Meehan, Johanna, ed. Feminists Read Habermas: Gendering the Subject of Discourse. London: Routledge, 1995.
Okin, Susan. Justice, Gender and the Family. New York: Basic Books, 1989.
Ovid, . The Art of Love and Other Poems, ed. and trans. Mozley, J. H.. London: William Heinemann, 1962.
Rawls, John. The Basic Structure as Subject. American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1977), pp. 554–74.
Rawls, JohnCollected Papers, ed. Freeman, S.. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Rawls, JohnJustice as Fairness: A Restatement. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2001.
Rawls, JohnKantian Constructivism in Moral Theory. Journal of Philosophy 77:9 (1980), pp. 515–72.
Rawls, JohnPolitical Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
Rawls, JohnA Theory of Justice. Oxford University Press, 1971.
Raz, Joseph. The Moral Point of View. In Reason, Ethics and Society: Themes from Kurt Baier with his Responses, ed. Schneewind, J. B.. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court, 1998.
Rehg, William. Insight and Solidarity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Sandel, Michael J.Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Sandel, Michael J.The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self. Political Theory 12:1 (1984), pp. 81–96.
Scanlon, T. M.What We Owe to Each Other. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Thompson, Janna. Discourse and Knowledge: Defence of a Collectivist Ethics. London: Routledge, 1998.
Thomson, Janna and Held, David. Habermas: Critical Debates. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1982.
Tronto, Joan. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethics of Care. London: Routledge, 1993.
Wiggins, David. Ethics. Twelve Lectures on the Philosophy of Morality. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2006.
Young, Iris M.Impartiality and the Civic Republic. In Feminism as Critique. Essays on the Politics of Gender in Late-Capitalist Societies, ed. Benhabib, Seyla and Cornell, Drucilla. London: Polity Press, 1987, pp. 56–77.
What do they want with us, the laws of the just and the unjust? Charles Baudelaire, ‘Lesbos’, Les Fleurs du mal, ed. Adam, A. (Paris: Editions Garniers, 1961), p. 167
Plato in Twelve Volumes, trans. Shorey, Paul (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press and London: William Heinemann, 1969)
Gilligan, Carol, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982)
Sandel, Michael, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge University Press, 1982)
Benhabib, Seyla and Cornell, Drucilla, eds., Feminism as Critique. Essays on the Politics of Gender in Late-Capitalist Societies (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987)
Blum, Lawrence, Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg, Implications for Moral Theory, Ethics 98 (1998), pp. 472–91
Benhabib, Seyla, Situating the Self: Gender, Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics (London: Routledge, 1992)
Rehg, William, Insight and Solidarity: The Discourse Ethics of Jürgen Habermas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)
Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice (Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 251–7
Rawls, John, Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory, Journal of Philosophy 77:9 (1980), pp. 515–72
Kohlberg, Lawrence, Essays on Moral Development, vol. I, The Philosophy of Moral Development. Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), p. 197
Rawls is explicit in The Basic Structure as Subject, American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1977), pp. 554–74
Thompson, Janna, Discourse and Knowledge: Defence of a Collectivist Ethics (London: Routledge, 1998), p. 53
Gilligan, Carol, Remapping the Moral Domain, in Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Individuality, and the Self in Western Thought, ed. Heller, T., Sosna, M. and Wellbury, D. (Stanford University Press, 1986), p. 238
McNaughton, D. and Rawling, P., Value and Agent-Relative Reasons, Utilitas 7 (1995), pp. 31–47
Finlayson, James Gordon, What are Universalisable Interests?, Journal of Political Philosophy 8:4 (2000), pp. 446–72
Finlayson, James Gordon, The Habermas–Rawls Dispute, Redivivus. Politics and Ethics Review 3:1 (2007), pp. 144–62
Benhabib, Seyla (The Communicative Ethics Controversy (Boston, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), pp. 349 and 351–8)
Held, Virginia (Feminist Transformations of Moral Theory, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50: supplement (1990), pp. 321–44
The Meshing of Care and Justice, Hypatia 10:2 (1995), p. 128)
Kant, Immanuel, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, vol. III, trans. Gregor, Mary J., ed. Guyer, Paul and Wood, Allen (Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 543–67
Ovid, , The Art of Love and Other Poems, ed. and trans. Mozley, J. H. (London: William Heinemann, 1962), pp. 124–5
Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality, vol. III, Care of the Self (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990)
Tronto, Joan, Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethics of Care (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 105ff
Rawls, John, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), p. 27
Austin, J. L.’s warning: ‘One can’t abuse ordinary language without paying for it’ (Sense and Sensibilia (Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 15)
Kymlicka, Will, Liberalism, Community and Culture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 55
Sandel, Michael, The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self, Political Theory 12:1 (1984), pp. 81–96
Kant, ’s theory of right or law. Otfried Höffe offers a very comprehensive discussion of these points (Is Rawls’s Theory of Justice really Kantian?, Ratio 26:2 (1984), pp. 103–23)
Rawls, John, Collected Papers, ed. Freeman, S. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 449
Fraser, Nancy, What is Critical about Critical Theory, in Feminists Read Habermas: Gendering the Subject of Discourse, ed. Meehan, Johanna (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 45
Rawls, John, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2001), pp. 451–744
Geuss, Raymond, Philosophy and Real Politics (Princeton University Press, 2008), p. 42ff
Marx, Karl, The German Ideology (New York: International Publishers, 1970), p. 64
Gilligan, C., Dubois, E., Dunlop, M., MacKinnon, C., Menkel-Neadow, C., Buffalo Law Review 34:1 (1985), p. 39ff
Meehan, Johanna, Feminism and Habermas’s Discourse Ethics, Philosophy and Social Criticism 26:3 (2000), p. 46
Habermas, Jürgen, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Lenhardt, C. and Nicholson, S. W. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), p. 93
Habermas, Jürgen, Die Einbeziehung des Anderen (Frankfurt-on-Main: Suhrkamp, 1996), p. 60
Lukes, Stephen in Thomson, Janna and Held, David, Habermas: Critical Debates (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1982), p. 257
Habermas, Jürgen, Erläuterungen zur Diskursethik (Frankfurt-on-Main: Suhrkamp, 1991), p. 202
Habermas and Rawls: Disputing the Political, ed. Finlayson, James Gordon and Freyenhagen, Fabian (London: Routledge, 2011)
Habermas, Jürgen, Reconciliation through the Use of Public Reason, Journal of Philosophy 92:3 (1995), p. 131
Rawls’, objection, see Political Liberalism (2005), pp. 421–32
McMahon, C., Ethics and Dialogue, Ethics 110 (2000), pp. 514–36
Baynes, Kenneth, Habermas’s ‘Kantian Pragmatism’, in The Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory, ed. White, Stephen K. (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 194–219
McCarthy, Thomas, Reply, in Habermas and Pragmatism, ed. Aboulafia, Mitchell (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 4
Habermas, Jürgen, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Lenhardt, Christian and Nicholson, Shierry Weber (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), p. 123
Care, , in A Companion to Feminist Philosophy, ed. Jaggar, Alison M. and Young, Iris M. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), p. 386
Lacan, Jaques, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, book II, 1954–55 (Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 7)
Hegel, G. W. F., Introductory Lectures on Fine Art, trans. Bosanquet, Bernard (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), p. 12
Mead, George H., Mind, Self and Society (University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 154–5
Grimm, Jacob and Grimm, Wilhelm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, 16 vols. in 32 parts (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1854–1960), Quellenverzeichnis 1971
Baier, Kurt, The Point of View of Morality, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 32:2 (1954), p. 135
Wiggins, David, Ethics. Twelve Lectures on the Philosophy of Morality (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2006), p. 10
Raz, Joseph, On the Moral Point of View, in Reason, Ethics and Society: Themes from Kurt Baier with his Response, ed. Schneewind, J. B. (Chicago: Open Court, 1998), p. 58
Scanlon, Thomas, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 4
Baier, Kurt, The Moral Point of View (New York: Random House, 1965 [1958]