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The Will to Care: Performance, Expectation, and Imagination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2020


This article addresses the world's contemporary crisis of care, despite the abundance of information about distant others, by exploring motivations for caring and the role of imagination. The ethical significance of caring is found in performance. Applying Victor Vroom's expectancy theory, caring performances are viewed as extensions of rational expectations regarding the efficacy of actions. The imagination creates these positive or negative expectations regarding the ability to effectively care. William James's notion of the will to believe offers a unique twist on rational expectations in that he regards humans as having the capacity to work within uncertainty to take decisive action. Applying this idea to caring performance is, this article argues that people can have the will to care, beyond strict rational calculations or limits of social norms. Historically, caring has been associated with the imagination's ability to empathize, but the will to care offers another role for the imagination in envisioning effective action. Given the significance of the imagination for ethical behavior, this article explores the implications for cultivating care in terms of what educating for care might look like. The work of feminist care ethicists, particularly Nel Noddings, is discussed, and contemporary case examples of caring performances are investigated.

Copyright © 2010 by Hypatia, Inc.

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