week four discussion forum



Chapter Ten

Contemporary Perspectives

In the introduction to Chapter 8, I mentioned that the idea of a good character as one of the key elements in a moral theory was eclipsed by the general notion that all that matters is doing the right thing. With the advent of Christianity, virtue ethics was rejected in favor of an ethics of conduct —asking the kinds of questions explored in Chapters 3–7. As we saw earlier, that was in part a result of a greater social awareness: There is more fairness in asking everybody to follow rules of conduct than there is in trying to make people adapt to vague principles of how to be, and there is a greater chance of developing rational arguments for your position regarding rules of conduct than there is of getting others to agree with your viewpoint concerning what is virtu- ous. In recent years, though, philosophers have turned their attention to the ancient thoughts about character building, and virtue theory is now experiencing a revival. (See Box 10.1 for a brief overview of virtue ethics and character.) This trend has been hotly contested by scholars such as J. B. Schneewind, who believe the original reasons for adopting ethics of conduct are still valid. The revival of virtue theory has been primarily a British and American phenom- enon, and we will look at some of the proponents of this new way of approaching ethics. In continental philosophy (European philosophy excluding the British tradi- tion), there was a separate renewal of interest in Aristotle and his virtue theory in the twentieth century, but in a sense a version of virtue theory has been in effect in con- tinental philosophy ever since the nineteenth century, and we will take a look at that tradition too. Because virtue theory is now associated with the new British∕American theory, we will call its continental counterpart the “Quest for Authenticity.”

Ethics and the Morality of Virtue as Political Concepts

As we have seen, there is a subtle difference between morality and ethics, and in the debate about virtue that difference becomes very clear. In an ethics of virtue the issue is to ask yourself what kind of person you want to be, to fi nd good reasons to back up your view and to listen to possible counterarguments, and then to set forth to shape your own character, all the while being ready to justify your choice of virtue rationally or to change your mind. An ethics of virtue doesn’t specify what kind of virtue you should strive for, although it is usually assumed that it will be something benevolent or at least nothing harmful. The important thing is that you realize you can mold your character into what you believe is right. The question of whether your chosen virtue really is a morally good choice is not necessarily part of the issue.

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However, a morality of virtue focuses precisely on this issue: Which virtue is de- sirable to strive for, and which is no virtue at all? Parents of young children generally know that telling stories can be an excellent way to teach moral virtues, but lately politicians as well as educators have also taken notice. The politician and writer William H. Bennett has published several collections of stories with morals— didactic stories—meant to be read to young children; the best known of those collections is simply titled The Book of Virtues and contains stories from the Western cultural heritage, as well as from other cultures, all with a short added moral explanation. (Box 10.2 discusses stories that warn against following nonvirtuous role models.) In the latter half of the twentieth century, virtue ethics made another entrance on the stage of British and American philosophy. For some thinkers it was an abso- lute necessity to make the switch from an ethics of conduct to virtue ethics because, as virtue ethicists say, you can do the right thing and still be an unpleasant person; however, if you work on your character, you will become a good person and do the right thing without even having to think about it. For others, virtue ethics has be- come a much-needed supplement to an ethics of conduct. Some see virtue ethics as a way for people to explore the issue of a good character; others view it as a way to teach what a good character should be all about.

The Political Aspect of Conduct Versus Character

In the last decade of the twentieth century, the political debate in the United States became polarized in a new way—which actually turned out to be a polished and updated version of the older polarization between conduct and character. Republican politicians brought up the issue of character: Is the candidate trustworthy? Does he or she have integrity? Does he or she keep promises? In short, is the candidate a virtuous person—in his or her private life as well? Democratic politicians responded by pointing to the public policies of the candidate: What has he or she accomplished politically so far? What social policies does the candidate support, and with what

Opponents of virtue ethics often claim that for people to be praised for what they do, or blamed for it, it must be assumed that they are responsible for their actions. But are we respon- sible for our character and disposition? Virtue theory asks us to look primarily at people’s character. Suppose we ask someone to give to charity, and she doesn’t have a generous dispo- sition. Can we then blame her for her lack of virtue? If we can’t, then virtue ethics is useless as a moral theory. It may praise people for dis- positions that they already have, but it doesn’t

tell us how to improve ourselves. Virtue theo- ry’s response to that is that certain people have certain dispositions, and in that respect some are more fortunate than others, morally speak- ing; some people are just naturally thoughtful and generous, or courageous, or truthful. The rest of us have to work on these things. Just because we lack a good disposition doesn’t mean we can’t work on improving it, and just because we have a tendency toward a certain disposition doesn’t mean we can’t work on controlling it.

Box 10.1 C A N W E C H A N G E O U R S P O T S ?

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success rate has he or she had them implemented? This is not just an interesting revival of the philosophical question of conduct versus character; it goes to the heart of how we view the importance of values. Do we think the question of personal character and integrity is the most important form of ethics—perhaps even the only form of ethics? Or do we believe that the personal standards of someone who serves the public are less important than his or her social conscience and efforts to change things presumably for the better? For some politicians, the question of character has in itself become a matter of a person’s outlook on social policies rather than a question of personal values: A person of good character is a person who supports certain social policies. Regardless of how one feels about national politics, it is philo- sophically interesting that the revived debate between ethics of conduct and virtue ethics is not always a partisan story—the virtue concept is not in itself a Republican

Virtue theory usually focuses on heroes and saints who are to be emulated, but little atten- tion is given to those characters who perhaps teach a deeper moral lesson: the negative role models. Whether we look to real-life fi gures or fi ctional characters, moral lessons can be learned by observing the destiny of “bad guys,” provided that they don’t get away with their misdeeds. (Twisted souls can, of course, learn a lesson from the evildoer who does get away with it, but that is another matter.) From child- hood we hear of people who did something they were not supposed to do and suffered the consequences. Most of these stories are issued as a warning: Don’t “cry wolf,” because in the end nobody will believe you. Look what hap- pened to Adam and Eve, who ate the fruit of the one tree they were not supposed to touch. Look what happened to the girl who stepped on a loaf of bread so she wouldn’t get her feet wet. She was pulled down into the depths of hell (in a Hans Christian Andersen story). When we grow up we learn the lesson of politicians who turned out to be crooked, of televangelists who didn’t practice what they preached, of rich and famous people who have serious drug problems. Movies and novels also bombard us with negative mod- els: Darth Vader ( Star Wars ) sells out to the Dark Side, so we learn to beware of people who have

lost their integrity. Charles Foster Kane ( Citizen Kane ) forgets his humanity and dies lonely, his heart longing for the time when he was a small boy. The Count of Monte Cristo loses his own humanity through an obsession with revenge. And Smeagol loses not only his self but even his identity as a “halfl ing” when he becomes Gol- lum through allowing the Ring to take over his spirit ( The Lord of the Rings ). Through exposure to such characters we get a warning; we live their lives vicariously and fi nd that bitterness lies at the end. Films such as Money for Noth- ing, A Simple Plan, Goodfellas, and Fargo show us that the life of selfi sh pursuits carries its own punishment. There are, however, works that fail to bring home the moral lesson because they are either too pompous or simply misin- formed. Such a fi lm is Reefer Madness, which is now a cult classic depicting the life of crime and madness that results from smoking marijuana. Another antidrug fi lm but with a far superior story and impact is Requiem for a Dream. It real- istically describes the downward spiral of drug addictions, in this case from diet pills as well as heroin. (If you remember your fallacies from Chapter 1, you’ll be able to identify Reefer Mad- ness as an example of the slippery slope fallacy, whereas Requiem depicts an actual, chilling slip- pery slope.)

Box 10.2 N E G A T I V E R O L E M O D E L S

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issue, and the policy issue is not by nature Democratic—it all depends on the politi- cal needs of the moment. As with so many of the moral issues we have looked at, an extreme either∕or turns out to be a bifurcation∕a false dichotomy —a false dilemma with other possible alternatives. If we assume that character is important, why should we assume that a person’s stand on social issues is less important? And if we assume that social views count, then why shouldn’t character count as well? A person can have a perfectly squeaky-clean character and yet be completely ineffective as a decision maker or a negotiator or even have little grasp of or interest in social policies and the needs of society. And a highly effective politician, well liked and radiating understanding of social and economic problems in the population, can turn out to have a personal life that is in shambles because of a lack of character. At times, though, it does seem all-important that a political leader have character and integrity—even if there is disagreement about his or her policies. The emerging pattern shows that each group focuses on what it considers most important: Conservatives have typically focused on character and liberals on a vari- ety of social policies, such as the right to abortion, affi rmative action, gun control, welfare, and other causes related to the general question of what to do. Interestingly, in the 2008 presidential campaign and the following years of the Obama presidency Conservatives often talked about policies, while some Democrats focused on the character of the candidates.

ZITS © 1997 Zits Partnership, King Features Syndicate

Virtue ethics recommends that we emulate role models; however, in this culture we also encourage individuality and the characteristics that make people unique and natural. Immanuel Kant warns about holding siblings up as role models, because that may create resentment rather than inspira- tion to be good. In Zits, the teen Jeremy is inundated with confl icting advice to be like someone else but also to be himself—is it any wonder he is confused?

Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

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Have Virtue, and Then Go Ahead: Mayo, Foot, and Sommers

Bernard Mayo

In 1958 the American philosopher Bernard Mayo suggested that Western ethics had reached a dead end, for it had lost contact with ordinary life. People don’t live by great principles of what to do (“Do your duty” or “Make humanity happy”); instead, they measure themselves according to their moral qualities or defi ciencies on an everyday basis. Novelists have not forgotten this, says Mayo, because the books we read tell of people who try hard to be a certain way—who sometimes succeed and sometimes fail—and we, the readers, feel that we have learned something. An ethics of conduct is not excluded from virtue ethics, says Mayo—it just takes second place, because whatever we do is included in our general standard of virtue: We pay our taxes or help animals that are injured in traffi c because we believe in the virtues of being a good citizen and fellow traveler on Planet Earth. In other words, if we have a set of virtues we believe we should live by, we will usually do the right thing as a consequence. However, an ethics of conduct without virtue may not be benevolent at all; it is entirely possible to “do your duty” and still be a bad person— you do it for gain or to spite someone. (A good example of such a person is Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, who may appear to be a pillar of society but only because it is profi table to him.) You can do something courageous without actually being courageous, says Mayo (although Aristotle would insist that if you do it often enough you actually become courageous, and utilitarians would insist that it doesn’t matter why you do something, as long as it has good results). So how should we choose our actions in an everyday situation? Mayo says we shouldn’t look for specifi c advice in a moral theory (Do such and such); we should, instead, adopt general advice (Be brave∕lenient∕patient). That will ensure that we have the “unity of character” which a moral system of principles can’t give us. Mayo advises us to select a role model, either an ideal person or an actual one. Be just, be a good American—or be like Socrates or Buddha, or choose a contemporary role model (fre- quently mentioned by my students) such as Angelina Jolie or Oprah Winfrey. There are heroes and saints throughout history we can choose from, not necessarily because of what they have done, but because of the kind of people they were. So when Mayo suggests that we learn from factual exemplars such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, or perhaps our parents, he is not saying we should emulate their actual doings but, rather, that we should live in their “spirit” and respond to everyday situations with the strength that a good character can give. This is a much more realistic approach to morality than is refl ected in the high ide- als of principles and duty that an ethics of conduct has held up for people. People have felt inadequate because nobody can live up to such ideals, says Mayo, but everyone can try to be like someone he or she admires. Critics of this enthusiasm for role models have pointed out that just emulating someone you admire doesn’t in itself solve your moral dilemmas: (1) What if your idea of a role model doesn’t correspond to what other people consider models of decent behavior? This is one of the traditional problems with virtue ethics: Who gets the fi nal word about what is to count as virtue? It provides no easy method for solving moral disputes. (2) What

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if your role model turns out not to be so perfect after all? We have seen famous people, role models for many, take dramatic falls from the pedestal of admiration because of personal less-than-admirable choices: Golf champion Tiger Woods and politician John Edwards come to mind, both having presented themselves as fam- ily men, and then revealed to have had extramarital affairs. And even if your role model is a historical fi gure (who can’t make any new mistakes), there is always the risk that new material will surface, showing another and less virtuous side to that person. Are you then supposed to drop your hero or fi nd ways to defend him or her? (3) The most serious complaint may be the one that comes from several phi- losophers (from different time periods) who fi nd fault with the very idea that one can be virtuous by just imitating someone else. (Mayo, of course, didn’t invent that idea; he just made it part of a modern philosophy of virtue.) One is Kant, who didn’t think virtue was a character trait as such, but rather the strength of one’s good will to follow a moral principle (see Chapter 6), and you can fi nd his thought-provoking criticism in Box  10.3. Another is the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who insisted that we ought to take responsibility for every single thing we do in order to be true to ourselves and become authentic human beings. Taking such respon- sibility precludes settling for just copying what others do, because that approach would give us a false sense of who we are and a false sense of security—by making us believe we can go through life and be good persons just by imitating others. In Sartre’s terminology, we would then be living a life of inauthenticity. We look more closely at Sartre’s moral philosophy later in this chapter.

Bernard Mayo points out that Kant rejected the idea of imitating others as a moral rule and called it “fatal to morality.” Kant deplored holding up an example of an ideal, rather than striving for the ideal itself. Mayo thinks striving for the ideal itself is too much to ask of ordinary people. If we read Kant’s Lectures on Ethics, we fi nd an interesting argument for why it is not a good idea to point to people as worth emulat- ing: If I try to compare myself with someone else who is better than I am, I can either try to be as good or try to diminish that other person; this second choice is actually much easier than trying to be as good as the other person, and it invariably leads to jealousy. So when parents hold up one sibling for the other to emulate, they are paving the way for sibling rivalry; the

one who is being set up as a paragon will be re- sented by the other one. Kant suggests that we should recommend goodness as such and not proffer individuals to be emulated, because we all have a tendency to be jealous of people we think we can’t measure up to. So the Kantian rejection of role models is not merely an ab- stract preference for an ideal but also a realistic appreciation of family relationships and petty grudges. It may even serve as a valid psycho- logical explanation for why some people have a profound dislike for so-called heroes and make consistent efforts to diminish the deeds of all persons regarded as role models by society. Such an attitude may just be another reaction against being told that someone else is a better person than you are.

Box 10.3 K A N T ’ S R E J E C T I O N O F R O L E M O D E L S

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Philippa Foot

Opponents of virtue theory ask how we can call benefi cial human traits “virtues” when some humans are born with such traits and others don’t have them at all. In other words, human responsibility for those dispositions doesn’t enter into the pic- ture at all. Good health and an excellent memory are great to have, but can we blame those who are sick and forgetful for not being virtuous? The British philosopher Philippa Foot—who invented the famous Trolley Prob- lem which you read about in Chapter 1—counters that argument in her book Virtues and Vices (1978) by stressing that virtues aren’t merely dispositions we either have or don’t have. A virtue is not just a benefi cial disposition but also a matter of our inten- tions. If we couple our willpower with our disposition to achieve some goal that is benefi cial, then we are virtuous. So having a virtue is not the same as having a skill; it is having the proper intention to do something good—and being able to follow it up with an appropriate action. For Foot, virtues are not just something we are equipped with. Rather, we are equipped with some tendency to go astray, and virtue is our capacity to correct that tendency. Human nature makes us want to run and hide when there is danger; that is why there is the virtue of courage. And we may want to indulge in more pleasure than is good for us; that is why there is the virtue of temperance. Foot points out that virtue theories seem to assume human nature is by and large sensual and fearful, but there actually may be other character defi ciencies that are more prevalent and more interesting to try to correct through virtue—such as the desire to be put upon and dissatisfi ed or the unwillingness to accept good things as they come along. But what about people who are naturally virtuous? The philosophical tradition has had a tendency to judge them rather oddly. Suppose we have two people who make the decision to lend a hand to someone in need. Person A likes to do things for others and jumps at the chance to be helpful. Person B really couldn’t care less about other people but knows that benevolence is a virtue, so he makes an effort to help in spite of his natural inclination. For Kant the person who makes an effort to overcome his or her inclination is a morally better person than the one to whom

Philippa Foot (1920–2010), a British ethicist, is credited with being one of a handful of 20th century philosophers who have revived and modernized the concept of virtue ethics. For years she held the position of Griffi n Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her works include Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy (1978), Natural Goodness (2001), and Moral Dilemmas: And Other Topics in Moral Philosophy (2002).

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virtue comes easily. But surely there is something strange about that judgment, be- cause in real life we appreciate the naturally benevolent person so much more than the surly one who grudgingly tries to be good for the sake of a principle. As a matter of fact, those are the people we love, because they like to do things for the sake of other people. Many schools of thought agree that it takes a greater effort to over- come than to follow your inclination, so it must be more morally worthy. Aristotle, however, believed that the person who takes pleasure in doing a virtuous action is the one who is truly virtuous. Foot sides here with Aristotle: The person who likes to do good, or to whom it comes easily, is a morally better person than the one who succeeds through struggle. Why? Because the fact that there is a struggle is a sign that the person is lacking in vir- tue in the fi rst place. Not that the successful struggler isn’t good, or virtuous, but the one who did it with no effort is just a little bit better, because the virtue was already there to begin with. Foot’s own example, in Virtues and Vices, is honesty:

For one man it is hard to refrain from stealing and for another man it is not: which shows the greater virtue in acting as he should? . . . The fact that a man is tempted to steal is some- thing about him that shows a certain lack of honesty: of the thoroughly honest man we say that it “never entered his head,” meaning that it was never a real possibility for him.

In addition, Foot offers a solution to another problem plaguing virtue ethics: Can we say that someone who is committing an evil act is somehow doing it with virtue? Say that a criminal has to remain cool, calm, and collected to open a safe or has to muster courage to fulfi ll a contract and kill someone. Is that person virtuous in the sense of having self-control or courage? Foot borrows an argument from the one ethicist who is most often identifi ed with an ethics of conduct, even though his work also includes the topic of virtue—Kant: An act or a disposition can’t be called good if it isn’t backed by a good will. Foot interprets it this way: If the act is morally wrong, or, rather, if the intentions behind the act are bad, then cool-headedness and courage cease to be virtues. Virtue is not something static; it is a dynamic power that appears when the intention is to do something good. The “virtue” value is simply switched off when the good intention is absent. And here we have an answer to the study question raised at the end of Chapter 9, after Aristotle’s text on courage p. 468: Can a terrorist be courageous? Should we acknowledge that the September 11 hijack- ers were somehow brave, in spite of their evil intentions? Foot would probably say no: A virtue is nullifi ed if it is done with an evil intention. The hijackers may have experienced some kind of spiritual fortitude, but it doesn’t deserve the name courage if we view courage as a virtue. And saying that their intention may have been to do something good for somebody other than the victims doesn’t count, in any moral theory: not in the religion of Islam, which forbids the killing of innocents; nor in Christianity and Judaism, which forbid the same thing; nor in utilitarianism, which sees the immensity of the massacre and psychological turmoil that followed through- out the world as unjustifi ed by any local cause the hijackers may have had; nor in Kant’s theory, which says we should never use any other person merely as a means to an end; nor in virtue theory, which, as we can now see, holds that it is motivation that determines whether or not a character trait can be called virtuous.

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We fi nd parallels in other situations in which there may not be any evil or crimi- nal element. Hope, for example, is generally supposed to be a virtue, but if someone is being unrealistic and daydreams about wish fulfi llment, hope is no longer a virtue. And temperance may be a virtue, but not if a person is simply afraid to throw herself into the stream of life. In that case it is a shield and not a virtue. Critics of Foot’s positive attitude toward the person who is naturally good with few selfi sh inclinations often point to Kant’s argument against the storekeeper who decides not to cheat customers (similar to the version of the argument you know from Chapter 6): To say you like your customers so much that you would never cheat them is not enough, because what if you stopped liking your customers? Similarly, the per- son who has never been tempted because susceptibility to temptation is not in her or his nature may seem a higher moral person to Foot; but perhaps it is just because that person has never come across temptation before, and in that case it is easy enough to be virtuous. True virtue, say Kant’s followers, shows itself precisely in the face of temptation—and not in its absence. However, when we have the choice between a store where they have a strict policy against cheating but the personnel are cold and grumpy and the store where they’ve known us for years and ask us how we’re doing, don’t we prefer to shop at the friendly place rather than at the unfriendly, but morally correct, place? Kant may think we should choose the unfriendly place, but Foot disagrees: We prefer friendliness, not principles. But what makes being friendly morally superior to being principled, in Foot’s view? Remember, Kant rejected the storekeeper’s third option because someone who wouldn’t cheat his or her customers because of a sunny disposition toward them is really just doing what he or she wants, out of self-gratifi cation, not out of principles. Of course, it is possible to be of a sunny disposition and be principled, but that is not the issue here. The issue is whether a sunny disposition is enough to make someone a moral person or whether having a character that isn’t tempted is morally superior to being a person who encounters temptation and fi ghts it. Foot says yes: The storekeeper who wouldn’t dream of cheat- ing her customers is a better person than the one who has had a moment’s temptation and rejected it, because temptation simply wasn’t a factor. Foot’s assumption is that it takes a weak character to be tempted. But, realistically, perhaps all that was missing was exposure and opportunity. So perhaps Kant has a point after all.

Christina Hoff Sommers

Which, then, are the virtues to which we should pay attention? Foot left the question open to an extent, because people tend to differ about what exactly is good for others and desirable as a human trait. Another ethicist, however, prefers to be more direct; her aim is not so much to defend virtue ethics as such as to focus on specifi c virtues and moral failings in our Western world. Christina Hoff Sommers tells of the woes an ethics professor of her acquaintance would experience at the end of a term. In spite of the multisubject textbooks they had read and the spirited discussions they had engaged in, the professor’s students somehow got the impression that there are no moral truths. Everything they had studied about ethics had been presented in terms of rules that can be argued against and social dilemmas that have no clear solutions.

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More than half of the students cheated on their ethics fi nals. The irony of cheating on an ethics test probably did not even occur to those students. What is lacking in our ethics classes? asks Sommers. It can’t be good intentions on the part of instructors, because since the 1960s teachers have been very careful to present the material from all sides and to avoid moral indoctrination. (Even this text, as you have noticed, contains sporadic mention of the difference between doing ethics and moralizing. ) Somehow, though, students come away with the notion that because everything can be argued against, moral values are a matter of taste. The teacher may prefer her students not to cheat, but that is simply her preference; if the student’s preference is for cheating as a moral value (“Cheat but don’t get caught”), then so be it. The moral lesson is learned by the student, and the chance for our society to hand down lessons of moral decency and respect for others has been lost because of a general fear of imposing one’s personal values on others. See Box 10.4 for a student “blog” discussion on the issue of cheating. Sommers suggests that instead of teaching courses on the big issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment, we should talk about the little, ev- eryday, enormously important things, such as honesty, friendship, consideration, respect. Those are virtues that, if not learned at a young age, may never be achieved in our society. Sommers mentions that in ethics courses of the nineteenth century, students were taught how to be good rather than how to discuss moral issues. When asked to name some moral values that can’t be disputed, Sommers answered,

It is wrong to mistreat a child, to humiliate someone, to torment an animal. To think only of yourself, to steal, to lie, to break promises. And on the positive side: it is right to be considerate and respectful of others, to be charitable and generous.

For Sommers, it is not enough to investigate virtue ethics—one must practice it and teach it to others. In that way virtue theory becomes virtue practice. If we study virtue theory in school, chances are we will fi nd it natural to seek to develop our own virtues. Sommers believes a good way to learn about virtues is to use the same

Christina Hoff Sommers (b. 1950), American philosopher, coeditor of Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life (1985), and author of Who Stole Feminism? (1994) and The War Against Boys (2000), argues for a re- turn to virtue ethics in order for people in modern society to regain a sense of responsibility rather than leave it to social institutions to make decisions on moral issues.

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method that both Bernard Mayo and philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre (see Box 10.5) advise: to read stories in which someone does something decent for others, either humans or animals. Through stories we “get the picture” better than we get it from philosophical dilemmas or case studies. Literary classics can tell us more about friendship and obligation than a textbook in moral problems can. For Sommers, there are basic human virtues that aren’t a matter of historical relativism, fads, or discussion, and the better we all learn them, the better we’ll like living in our world

Christina Hoff Sommers brings up the question of cheating students and sees it as a problem of students being able to connect personally with the moral theories they have studied. In 2011 seven high school students were ar- rested in Long Island for cheating on their SAT scores. One student was accused of taking the tests for the others, with fake IDs, and charg- ing up to $2,500 per test. His lawyer claimed that “Everyone knows that cheating is going on. We’re not proud of it, but in some way we’ve all done it.” Another blatant case of cheating was revealed in the spring of 2007 at Duke University, where thirty-four out of thirty-eight students in the graduate business school were disciplined for plagiarism. Your author had oc- casion to blog about this matter, and the com- ments were profound. One student, “Charlette,” wrote, “When a student makes the decision to cheat, their desire to gain whatever they may gain from cheating is greater than their desire to be ‘morally right.’ It seems to me that all you can do is infl uence how much people value being the latter. In this society, I’m sure most people know that cheating is considered ‘wrong.’ Sim- ply ‘teaching values’ doesn’t appear to greatly af- fect how a person would make decisions if they have already developed most of their values.” Another student, “Evan,” responded, “Clearly these students value a letter grade over the ac- quisition of knowledge. This is perhaps a symp- tom of a dysfunctional academic system rather

than a dysfunctional morality.” “Thea” chimed in: “I think that this is what happens in a society when prestige and money become synonymous. In generations past, prestige could be acquired in myriad ways including benevolence, ethics, special skills and abilities, knowledge. Today, those things do not provide people with pres- tige automatically. Instead, they are relevant only so far as they can be translated to money.” And “Eric” related cheating to theories learned in class: “Students may make a decision to cheat because they don’t agree that doing so would be ‘morally wrong.’ . . . The college environment with its set rules of what cheating is applies Kant’s ideas of ethics. These rules don’t look at the consequences but instead say ‘this is always wrong’ even if there could be a net benefi t to the students and world. If you are a college student who instead prefers Bentham’s hedonistic calcu- lus you might conclude that cheating in some situations is actually the ‘right’ thing to do.” In your view, is it wrong to cheat on a test? Is this a black-and-white issue, or are there shades of gray? After having studied a number of moral theories in this book, do you fi nd that one or more theories can clarify such a question for you, or do you regard it as a matter for one’s moral in- stinct to decide? Your answer may go to the heart of the current debate in value theory: Do our moral principles actually matter at all when we make decisions, or are we guided more by other factors, such as personal needs or feelings?

Box 10.4 T H E I R C H E A T I N G H E A R T S ; O R , D O P R I N C I P L E S M A T T E R ?

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with one another. Those virtues are part of most people’s moral heritage, and there is nothing oppressive about teaching the common virtues of decency, civility, honesty, and fairness. Too often we tend to think that certain issues are someone else’s problem; the state will take care of it, whether it is pollution, homelessness, or the loneliness of el- derly people. For Sommers this is part of a virtue ethics for grown-ups: Don’t assume that it is someone else’s responsibility. Don’t hide from contemporary problems—take them on and contribute to their solution. Do your part to limit pollution. Think of how you can help homeless people. Go visit someone you know who is elderly and lonely. Virtues like those will benefi t us all and are the kind we must learn to focus on if we are to make a success out of being humans living together. This vision of personal virtues is probably the most direct call to a resurgence of moral values that has been produced so far within the fi eld of philosophy. Som- mers, however, is arguing not for a revival of religious values but for a strengthening of basic concepts of personal responsibility and respect for other beings. Her claim is that few ethicists dare to stand by values and pronounce them good in themselves these days for fear of being accused of indoctrinating their students. For Sommers the list of values cited above is absolute: They can’t be disputed. Herein lies one answer to why Sommers today remains one of the most controversial of American contemporary philosophers (another answer can be found in Chapter 12: her ap- proach to feminism): In the intellectual climate of the 1990s, it was considered not

The American philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre believes that our moral values would be enriched if we followed the examples of older cultures and let tradition be part of those values. We don’t exist in a cultural vacuum, he says, and we would un- derstand ourselves better if we’d allow a histori- cal perspective to be part of our system of values. That doesn’t mean that everything our ancestors did and thought should become a virtue for us, but a look back to the values of those who came before us adds a depth to our modern life that makes it easier to understand ourselves. And how do we understand ourselves best? As the tellers of stories of history, of fi ction, and of our own lives. We understand ourselves in terms of the story we would tell of our own life, and by doing that we are defi ning our character. So virtue and char- acter development are essential to being a moral person and doing what is morally good. But

virtues are not static abilities for MacIntyre any more than they are for Philippa Foot. Virtues are linked with our aspirations; they make us better at becoming what we want to be. It is not so much that we have a vision of the good life; rather, we have an idea of what we want to accomplish (what MacIntyre calls “internal goods”), and vir- tues help us accomplish those goals. Whatever our goal, we usually will be more successful at reaching it if we are conscientious and trustwor- thy in striving for it. Whatever profession we try to excel in, we will succeed more easily if we try to be courageous and honest and maintain our integrity. With all the demands we face and all the different roles we have to play—in our jobs, sexual relationships, relations to family and friends—staying loyal and trustworthy helps us to function as one whole person rather than as a compilation of disjointed roles.

Box 10.5 M A C I N T Y R E A N D T H E V I R T U E S

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only customary but even proper to view values as something more or less relative to one’s culture and to one’s personal life experience; we’ve explored the issue in Chapter 3. For Sommers, however, the end result has not been what was presumably intended—an enhanced individual moral responsibility—but, rather, the opposite: no sense of responsibility at all, since morals are perceived to be relative. So Sommers digs deeper into who we are as humans and fi nds a common ground of values. But is she right? Can we just pronounce the virtues of decency, civility, honesty, and so forth the ultimate values without any further discussion? Perhaps Sommers is right that most people would agree her values are good, and perhaps not. For many, what Sommers is doing is just old-fashioned moralizing (and some applaud that effort, but others don’t). In effect, this isn’t just Sommers’s problem—it is a problem inherent in all genuine virtue ethics, as you’ll remember from the previous chapter: When there is a dispute about virtues, among virtuous people, who gets to be right? How do we determine exactly what virtue is, if virtue is its own answer? How can college students be convinced that cheating is a bad thing? How can teens be convinced that downloading copyrighted material from the Internet is wrong? It

CALVIN AND HOBBES © 1993 Watterson. Dist. by UNIVERSAL UCLICK. Reprinted with

permission. All rights reserved.

Here is another stab at doing philosophy from Calvin, who is voicing rare scruples about cheating on an ethics test (scruples that apparently were not shared by the students of Christina Hoff Som- mers’s colleague or the graduate students caught cheating at Duke University). Is Hobbes right that “simply acknowledging the issue is a moral victory”?

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can’t be done by simply teaching them that honesty is a virtue; that might work for young children, but adolescents and adults need reasons. Reasons and reasoning are the key here. A moral story such as Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities may tell us that self-sacrifi ce is a “far, far better thing” to practice than anything else, and it may make sense to me, but in your ears it may just sound like propaganda. What we need is to add rational argumentation to virtue ethics: give good reasons why something is a virtue, and a value. The stand-off between Sommers and many of her colleagues might, in this respect, be defl ected by seeking an answer in what we’ve called soft universalism and in an approach you’re familiar with from elsewhere in this book: looking for the common ground, plus fi nding good reasons why something is, or should be, a virtue. We return to soft universalism in Chapter 11.

The Quest for Authenticity: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Levinas

Within what is called “contemporary continental philosophy”—by and large European philosophy after World War I—one school of thought holds there is only one way to live properly and only one virtue to strive for: that of authenticity. That school of thought is existentialism. Although existentialism developed primarily at the hands of Jean-Paul Sartre as a response to the experience of meaninglessness in World War II, it has its roots in the writings of the Danish philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard and the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In this section we take a look at Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre. In addition we will look at a philosopher, who in more recent years has emerged as a forceful voice for eth- ics as fundamental to human existence: Emmanuel Levinas. Whereas Kierkegaard’s form of authenticity is ultimately conceived as a relationship between oneself and God, Nietzsche’s authenticity focuses on the exact opposite, the self ’s ability to cre- ate a meaning in a world without a god. Heidegger’s authenticity deals with one’s relationship to one’s own form of existence, and Sartre’s authenticity deals with one’s relationship to oneself as a person making moral choices, Levinas focuses on the relation- ship between oneself and the Other —our fellow human beings.

Kierkegaard’s Religious Authenticity

During his lifetime (1813–1855), Kierkegaard was known locally, in Copenhagen, as a man of leisure who had a theology degree and spent his time writing convoluted and irritating attacks on the Danish establishment, including offi cials of the Lutheran church. Few people understood his points because he was rarely straightforward in his writings and hid his true opinions under layers of pseudonyms and irony. The idea that there might be a great mind at work, developing what was to become one of the most important lines of thought in the twentieth century, was obvious to no one at the time, in Denmark or elsewhere. As a matter of fact, Kierkegaard was work- ing against the general spirit of the times, which was focused politically on the de- velopment of socialism and scientifi cally on the ramifi cations of Darwinism. People weren’t ready to listen to ideas such as the value of personal commitment, the psy- chological dread that accompanies the prospect of total human freedom of the will,

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the relativity of truth, and the value of the individual. As it happened, though, such ideas were to become key issues for French and German existential philosophers a couple of generations after Kierkegaard’s death. There are two major, very different ways of approaching the strange writings of Søren Kierkegaard. You can dismiss him as a man who had a diffi cult childhood and as a consequence developed an overinfl ated ego with no sense of proportion as to the importance of events. In other words, you can view his writings as simply the prod- uct of an overheated brain that pondered the “great mystery” of Søren Kierkegaard’s life and times. Or you can view his writings as words that speak to all humanity from a uniquely insightful point of view, which just happens to have its roots in events in Kierkegaard’s own life. Among current scholars this second approach has become the prevailing one. What was so eventful about Kierkegaard’s life? Nothing much, compared with the lives of other famous people; but, contrary to most people, Kierkegaard analyzed everything that happened to him for all it was worth and with an eerie insight. He was born into a family of devout Lutherans (Lutheranism is the state religion in Denmark and has been since the Protestant Reformation) and was the youngest boy born to comparatively old parents. Several of his older siblings died young, and for some reason both Søren and his father believed that Søren would not live long either. His father’s opinion had an extreme infl uence on the boy—an infl uence that Kierkegaard later analyzed to perfection, years before Freud described confl ict and bonding between fathers and sons. When his father was young and a shepherd in rural Denmark, he was overcome by hunger and cold one bleak day on the moors, and he stood up on a rock and cursed God for letting a child suffer like that. Shortly after that incident his parents sent him to Copenhagen as an apprentice, and his hard life was over. That was a psy- chological shock to him, because he had expected punishment from God for cursing him, and he waited for the punishment most of his life. He grew rich while others lost their money, and for that reason he expected God to punish him even more severely.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Danish philosopher, writer, and theologian, believed that there are three major stages in human spiritual development: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage, and the religious stage. Not everyone goes through all stages, but true selfhood and personal authenticity can’t happen until one has put one’s complete faith in God.

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The fi rst tragic thing that happened to him was that he lost his young wife; however, two months later he married their maid, who was already pregnant at the time. When Søren’s older siblings died, his father thought that God’s punishment had struck again, but otherwise his luck held while his guilt grew. It is possible that he then got the idea of letting his youngest son somehow make amends for him—take on the burden and strive for a reconciliation with God. In the Lutheran tradition there is no such thing as making a confession to your minister to “get things off your chest”—you alone must face your responsibility and handle your relationship with God. That means that you have direct access to God at any time, in your heart; you have a direct relationship with God. Your faith is a personal matter, and for Kierkegaard in particular the concept of faith was to become extremely personal. Søren turned out to be an extraordinarily bright child, and his father devoted much time to his education, in particular to the development of his imagination. The two made a habit of taking walks—in their living room. Søren would choose where they were going—to the beach, to the castle in the woods, down Main Street—and his father would then describe in minute detail what they “saw.” It was intellectually and emotionally exhausting for the boy, and scholars have ridiculed the father for his fancy, but today it is recognized by many that the combination of imagination and intellectual discipline is just about the best trait a parent can develop in a child, although one might say that this was a rather extreme way of going about it. At the end of this chapter you can read an excerpt from Kierkegaard’s Johannes Climacus in which he describes his father’s vivid imagination. Kierkegaard was a young adult when his father died, and he understood full well the immense infl uence his father had had on him. He wrote the following in Stages on Life’s Way (1845), though he didn’t let on that he was writing about himself:

There was once a father and a son. A son is like a mirror in which the father beholds himself, and for the son the father too is like a mirror in which he beholds himself in the time to come. . . . the father believed he was to blame for the son’s melancholy, and the son believed that he was the occasion of the father’s sorrow—but they never exchanged a word on this subject.

Then the father died, and the son saw much, experienced much, and was tried in mani- fold temptations; but infi nitely inventive as love is, longing and the sense of loss taught him, not indeed to wrest from the silence of eternity a communication, but to imitate the father’s voice so perfectly that he was content with the likeness . . . for the father was the only one who had understood him, and yet he did not know in fact whether he had un- derstood him; and the father was the only confi dant he had had, but the confi dence was of such a sort that it remained the same whether the father lived or died.

So Kierkegaard internalized the voice of his father; as Freud would say, he made his father’s voice his own Superego. This had the practical effect of prompting Kierkegaard fi nally to get his degree in theology (which his father had wanted him to do but which he hadn’t really wanted himself). Kierkegaard also internalized his father’s guilt and rather gloomy outlook on life. (See Box 10.6 for another event that may have been infl uenced by his father.) Kierkegaard believed that everyone, even a child, has an intimate knowledge of what anguish feels like; he believed that you feel

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An event of great importance in Søren Kierkegaard’s life occurred when he fell deeply in love for the fi rst and only time. The woman’s name was Regine Olsen, and she was the daughter of a minister. Regine and Søren became engaged, and he engaged himself in a new intellectual scrutiny: What was this feeling? Was it constant or a fl uke? What might go wrong? Was it right for him to try to do something “universal” that everybody did, like get married and have children, or would it somehow interfere with his father’s plans for him to be a sacrifi ce to God? Regine, a kind and loving woman, was utterly puzzled at Søren’s reluctance to accept that they were just young people in love. When they were together he was in a good mood and was confi dent about their future together, but when he was alone, the doubts started closing in on him. It appears that he felt he was not quite worthy of her, for some reason—perhaps because in years past he had visited a brothel, or perhaps because he couldn’t quite explain his father’s in- fl uence on him to her. Mostly, though, it was the shock of the physical attraction he felt toward her that distracted him, he thought, from becoming truly spiritual. During this period he began to un- derstand one aspect of the Don Juan character: He realized that he loved Regine the most when he was not with her but was fantasizing about her. Once they were together his ardor cooled consid- erably. Eventually he decided that it was better for both of them if they broke up, but because nineteenth-century mores demanded that the woman, not the man, break off the engagement if her character were to remain stainless, he had to try to force Regine to break the engagement. This he did by being as nasty to her as he could, even though he still loved her. He embarked on a program he himself had devised, alternating be- tween playing the fool and the cynic; once when she asked him if he never intended to marry, he answered as nastily as he could, “Yes, in ten years

when I’ve sown all my wild oats; then I’ll need a young girl to rejuvenate me.” For a long time he persisted in being rude to her, and she contin- ued to forgive him, because she was very much in love with him. In the end he himself broke up with her, however, and she appears to have talked about killing herself. Kierkegaard wanted her to despise him, and a short time later she actually became engaged to a friend of theirs and married him. After that, Kierkegaard never tired of talk- ing about woman’s fi ckle, stupid, and untrust- worthy nature. But here we must remember that

Box 10.6 A K I N D O F L O V E A N D A M A R R I A G E T H A T W A S N ’ T : R E G I N E O L S E N

Regine Olsen, Søren Kierkegaard’s fi ancée, a gentle Copenhagen woman who did her best to understand the intellectual scruples of her boyfriend, who could not reconcile his devotion to God with the idea of physical attraction to a woman and a subsequent bourgeois marriage. This photo was taken a few years after Kierkegaard fi nally broke up with her. (Photo of Regine Schlegel [ née Olsen] courtesy of The Royal Library, Copenhagen.)



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dread or anguish when you look to the future—you dread it because you realize you must make choices. This feeling, which has become known by the Danish∕German word, angst, is comparable, Kierkegaard says, to realizing that you’re far out on the ocean and you have to swim or sink, act or die, and there is no way out. The choice is yours, but it is a hard choice, because living is a hard job. Suppose you refuse to make your own decisions and say, “Society will help me,” or “The church will help me,” or “My uncle will help me”? Then you have given up your chance to become a real person, to become authentic, because you don’t accomplish anything spiritual unless you accomplish it yourself, by making the experience your own. Each person is an individual, but only through a process of individuation—choosing to make one’s own decisions and take responsibility for them in the eyes of God—can a per- son achieve selfhood and become a true human individual. The truth you experience when you have reached that point is your truth alone, because only you took that par- ticular path in life. Other people can’t take a shortcut by borrowing “your truth”— they must fi nd the way themselves. We can’t, then, gain any deep insights about life from books or from teachers. They can point us in the right direction, but they can’t spoon-feed us any truths. In the Primary Readings you’ll fi nd a short excerpt from Either∕Or in which Kierkegaard describes the nature of making hard choices. This attitude is refl ected in Kierkegaard’s cryptic and disturbing assertion that truth is subjective, an idea that has been vehemently disputed by scientists and phi- losophers alike. Some philosophers believe Kierkegaard meant there is no objective knowledge at all; we can never verify statements such as “2 ! 2 " 4,” “The moon circles the earth,” and “It rained in Boston on April 6, 2011,” because all such state- ments are, presumably, just a matter of subjective opinion, or what we call cogni- tive relativism. That would mean that we could never set any objective standard for knowledge. Although other philosophers, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, have actually worked toward such a radical viewpoint, Kierkegaard is not among them. He never says that knowledge is subjective, and to understand what he means we have to look more closely at what he says. His actual words are “Subjectivity is Truth,” and Kierkeg- aard scholars believe that to mean the following: There is no such thing as “Truth” with a capital T that we can just scoop up and call our own. The “meaning of life” is not something we can look up in a book or learn from anybody else, because it just isn’t there unless we fi nd it ourselves. There is no objective truth about life, only a personal truth, which will be a little bit different for each individual. It will not be vastly dif- ferent, though, because when we reach the level at which we are truly personal, we

Kierkegaard had multiple author-personalities, and beneath the scorn lurked his love, which ap- parently never died: He approached Regine with the suggestion that they resume their friendship,

but her husband wouldn’t allow it. After Kierkeg- aard died, it was revealed in his will that he had left everything he owned to Regine, but she re- fused to accept the inheritance.

Box 10.6 A K I N D O F L O V E A N D A M A R R I A G E T H A T W A S N ’ T : R E G I N E O L S E N (continued)

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will fi nd that it corresponds to other people’s experiences of individuation too. In other words, the personal experience becomes a universal one—but only if you have gone through it yourself. This is the ultimate meaning of life and the ultimate virtue: to become an authentic human being by fi nding your own meaning. If you settle for accepting other people’s view of life, you are no better than the evil magician Noured- din (or Jaffar, in the Disney movie version) in the story of Aladdin; he has no personal magic or talent himself, so he tries to steal it from the one who has, Aladdin. For Kierkegaard himself, truth is a religious truth: One must take on the concept of sin and responsibility and seek God’s forgiveness directly, as an individual. But that is hard for most people to do because we are born with quite another character. Typically humans are born into the aesthetic stage: the stage of sensuous enjoyment. Children obviously have a very strong interest in the joys of their senses, but if that persists into adulthood it can result in unhealthy character development, symbolized by the Don Juan type who loves to pursue the girl but loses interest once he has se- duced her. She wants to get married, and he wants out. He leaves, only to fall in love with and pursue some other girl, and on it goes. Today we would say this is a person who can’t commit. Kierkegaard makes the same basic observation but explains that this happens because the Don Juan type is steeped in sensuous enjoyment, which sours on itself: Too much of the same is not a good thing, but a person who is stuck in the aesthetic stage doesn’t have any sense of what is morally right or wrong. Such knowledge usually comes as people mature and enter the ethical stage (although some people are stuck in the aesthetic stage forever). In the ethical stage people realize that there are laws and conventions, and they believe that the way to become a good person is to follow those conventions. A fi ctional character from nineteenth-century middle-class Copenhagen becomes Kierkegaard’s prototype for the ethical stage: Judge William, the righteous man who tries to be a good judge and a good husband and father. Scholars don’t quite agree on how to evaluate this good and kind man, because the fact is that we are rarely cer- tain when Kierkegaard is being serious and when he is being sarcastic. Kierkegaard also cites Socrates (whom he greatly admired) as an example of an ethical person. Although Socrates is commonly recognized as a truly courageous and virtuous man who strove to live (and die) the right way, Judge William doesn’t come across as a he- roic person; we even get the impression that he is actually a pompous, self-righteous, bourgeois bore who has his attention fi xed on “doing the right thing” merely because society expects it of him. So it seems Kierkegaard wants to tell us that it isn’t enough to follow the rules and become what everyone else thinks you ought to be; that way you exist only in the judgment of others. You have to take on responsibility for judg- ing yourself, and the way you do that is by making a leap of faith into the religious stage. It isn’t enough to judge your own life in terms of what makes sense according to society’s rules and rational concepts of morality; what you must do to become an authentic person is leave the standards of society behind, including your love for reason and for things to make sense, and choose to trust in God, like Abraham, who made that same choice when he brought his son Isaac to be sacrifi ced, even though it didn’t make sense to him. Reason and the rules of society can’t tell you if the insight you reach as a religious person is the truth.


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So why is Socrates not a perfect person? Why did he stay within the ethical stage and make no leap of faith to the religious stage, according to Kierkegaard? Because the leap was not available to him, since he didn’t belong to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Socrates is an example of how far you can reach if you stay within the boundaries of reason. However, in the religious stage there is no objective measure of meaning. At this stage you take responsibility for yourself, but at the same time you give up your fate and place it in the hands of God. Finally you can become a true human being, a complete individual and person, because only in the religious stage can you realize what it means to say that “Subjectivity is Truth.”

Nietzsche’s Authenticity Without Religion

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), one of the truly con- troversial fi gures in Western philosophy, is often credited with being one of the contributors to the French existentialism of the twentieth century (see below). He is an extraordinary character in Western philosophy; some would call him an enfant terrible , a “terrible child,” roguish and unruly. In the second half of the twentieth century he was often called far worse things than that, because of an association with a part of history that to most of us stands out as the worst which the century, and humanity, could present: The Third Reich, Hitler’s regime. However, Nietzsche had been dead for over thirty years when Hitler’s theories became popular among the Nazis, and it is still debatable how much of a philosophical kinship there is between them, if any. We return to that question below. Nietzsche was born in Leipzig, Germany, and several of the male members of his family were Lutheran ministers. His father was a minister, too, but he died when Nietzsche was young, and the boy and his sister were raised by their mother and other women in the family. His upbringing was of the Christian Protestant variety, in which pleasures of this life are considered sinful, and life after death is regarded as the true goal of this life; you’ll recognize the infl uence of Plato and St. Augustine (see Chapter 8). As a young man Nietzsche studied theology for a while; he then switched to classical philosophy and philology for which he proved

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) is one of the most contro- versial philosophers in modern times. Frequently writing in aphorisms, he piles scorn on practically every cherished fi gure and thought in the Western tradition, and an entire post-World War II generation has assumed that his thoughts inspired Hitler’s Nazi regime of terror. However, in recent years another image has emerged: that of a passionate thinker who wanted his readers to tear themselves free of what he thought were the shackles of Christian as well as utilitarian thinking, and strive for individual greatness

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to have a true talent. He was made professor in Switzerland when he was just twenty-fi ve. He served as a medic during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, but during that time he became ill. He had presumably contracted syphilis a few years earlier, and bad health followed him for the rest of his life. He was forced to retire from his professorship, and in a sense he retired from life, too, living in seclusion with his mother who took care of him. It was during his retirement, while he was still a young man, that he wrote the works that were to shake up the Western intel- lectual world in the twentieth century. When he was forty-fi ve his mental health deteriorated dramatically, although he also seemed to have good days of some mental clarity. He lived on for another eleven years, tended by his mother and when she died, his sister Elisabeth. Some people have tried to dismiss Nietzsche’s works as the ravings of a mad- man. But the fact is that Nietzsche’s mind was quite healthy and vigorous when he wrote most of the works that were to become so infl uential after his death. (Only a few European intellectuals outside of Germany, such as the Danish thinker Georg Brandes, were aware of his philosophy during his lifetime. Brandes tried to introduce Nietzsche to Scandinavian readers, without much success.) Besides, a theory must be able to stand on its own, and if it seems to make sense, or at least make interesting observations, it can’t be dismissed because of the condition of its author. Nietzsche’s works have stood the test of time with eerie brilliance.

Beyond Good and Evil

What is good? What is evil? Nietzsche says that depends on your perspective: If you are a nineteenth-century person, if you belong to the Judeo-Christian tradi- tion, or if you are otherwise inspired by Plato, you might say that a good person shuns physical pleasures, because they are sinful, and concentrates on the after- life, because that is when true life begins. If you are what Nietzsche would call a socialist, you might say that a good person is not offensive, willful, or selfi sh, but subordinates his or her will to serve the community. A good person is meek, help- ful, kind, and turns the other cheek. An evil person is selfi sh, gives orders, thinks he or she is better than others, looks to this life and disregards the afterlife, and wallows in physical pleasures. If this is your view of good and evil, says Nietzsche, then you must reevaluate your values, for their true nature is repressive , and that realization calls for a transvaluation of values. What should be the focus of such a transvaluation? The value system that was common in ancient times, before people began to value weakness: the moral value of strength, of power . This means that we must go beyond the common defi nitions of good and evil toward a new defi nition. We can’t look to Nietzsche’s writings for a systematic account or a point-to-point criticism of the Western value system: His viewpoints are scattered around in his writings, and one must play detective to get the whole picture. Some material is in his speculative work of fi ction Thus Spoke Zarathustra , and some in his Genealogy of Morals , but it is the title and topic of his book Beyond Good and Evil that gives us the clue to the clearest version of his cultural critique.


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Master and Slave Moralities

In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche suggests that the old Christian value system of lov- ing one’s neighbor and turning the other cheek must be scrapped, because it is the morality of a weak person, a “slave” who fears his “master,” the strong-willed, self- made individual. For Nietzsche, the “slave-morality” began in ancient times when slaves hated and feared their masters and resented anyone who wielded power over them. Nietzsche’s concern was not the atrocities of slavery; what interested him was the attitude the slaves had toward the masters and each other, and the master’s at- titude toward other masters and the slaves. He saw it as his task to analyze the two moral systems that grew out of the two strictly separated and yet in some ways inter- twined communities of the masters (the warlords) and the slaves (their serfs). In the mind of the feudal warlord, a good person is someone who can be trusted and who will stand by you in a blood feud. He is a strong ally, a good friend, someone who has pride in himself and who has a noble and generous character—someone who is able to arouse fear in the enemy. If the warlord wants to help the weaker ones through his own generosity, he can choose to do so, but he doesn’t have to: He creates his own values. The warlord respects his enemy if he is strong—then he becomes a worthy opponent—and values honor in his friends as well as in his enemies. Those who are weak don’t deserve respect, for their function is to be preyed upon (the resemblance to Darwin’s concept of natural selection and survival of the fi ttest is no accident: Nietzsche had read, and admired, Darwin’s Origin of Species ). Someone who is not willing to stand up for himself, who is weak, and afraid of you, is a “bad person.” The slave, on the other hand, hates the master and everything he stands for. The master represents evil , having the strength, the will, and the power to rule; he inspires fear. Good is the fellow slave who helps out—the nonthreatening person, the one who shows sympathy and altruism, who acts to create general happiness for as many as possible. The slaves feel tremendous resentment toward the masters, and this resent- ment ends in revolt. Historically, says Nietzsche, the slaves eventually gained the upper hand, and deposed the masters. The “master-morality” was reversed to the status of evil, while the “slave-morality” became a common ideal. For Nietzsche a slave morality and a herd morality are the same phenomenon. The meek have indeed inherited the earth already—but the “herd” has retained their feelings of resentment toward the idea of a master, and everything the master stood for is still considered evil, even though there are no more masters. In Nietzsche’s words from Beyond Good and Evil ,

The noble type of man regards himself as a determiner of values; he does not require to be approved of; he passes the judgment . . . he is a creator of values. . . . It is otherwise with the second type of morality, slave-morality. Suppose that the abused, the oppressed, the suffering, the unemancipated, the weary, and those uncertain of themselves, should moralize, what will be the common element in their moral estimate? Probably a pessimistic suspicion with regard to the entire situation of man will fi nd expression, perhaps a con- demnation of man, together with his situation.

For Nietzsche, this dichotomy (either-or) between slave and master attitude can be found in every culture, sometimes within the same individual. The situation initially

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developed in early European cultures as well as in the Christian tradition (described by Nietzsche as the “mass egoism of the weak”), which in Nietzsche’s eyes clearly dis- plays the herd mentality with its requirement that you must turn the other cheek and refrain from doing harm if you want to partake of “pie in the sky when you die.” That mentality has also been prominent in Plato’s philosophy, in the moral philosophy of utilitarianism (see Chapter 5), and in socialism, and it has had the effect of reduc- ing everything to averages and mediocrity, because it advocates general happiness and equality at the cost of the outstanding individual. In Nietzsche’s view it is the downfall of a culture to put restrictions on such gifted individuals, because it stifl es and kills the capacity for individual expression. And for him, that was precisely what Germany and the rest of Europe had become in the late nineteenth century: a population of herd animals who would pick on anyone who dared to be different. The Platonic and the Christian traditions had merged into a world view, and (in Nietzsche’s own day) were joined by socialism and Marxism. And even if Marxism is hostile to religion—Karl Marx called religion an “opiate of the masses”—Nietzsche sees a common denominator in Marxism and Christianity, a catering to the meek for the sake of meekness, and a disrespect for life itself.

The Overman For Nietzsche the slave-morality says nay to life ; it looks toward a higher reality (Heaven) in the same way that Western philosophy inspired by Plato has looked toward a world of ideas far removed from the tangible mess of sensory experience. This Hinterwelt (world beyond) is for Nietzsche a dangerous illusion, because it gives people the notion that there is something besides this life, and thus they squander their life here on earth in order to realize their shadowy dreams of a world to come, or a higher reality. This, for Nietzsche, is to live wrongly, and inau- thentically. But there is, to Nietzsche, a value that stands higher than all others, and that is the attitude that affi rms life : An authentic existence consists of realizing that there is nothing beyond this life, and that one must pursue life with vigor, like a “master” who sets his own value. If one realizes this, and has the courage to discard the traditional values of Christianity, one has become an Overman ( Übermensch ), or “Superman.” The Overman is the human of the future—not in the sense of a biologi- cal evolution, because not everyone in the future will be Overmen, far from it. The Overman is not the result of an automatic, natural selection, but an aggressive seizing of power. For Nietzsche there is one overriding feature of human life: not reason, nor empathy, but will to power . The slave-morality will do its best to control or kill this urge, but the man who is capable of being a creator of values will recognize it as his birthright, and will use it any way he sees fi t. His right lies in his capacity to use the power, because that power is in itself the force of life. In effect, the right of the Overman is in Nietzsche’s philosophy a right created by might, a practical descrip- tion more than any political statement: You have the right if you can hold on to it and use it. (The gender-specifi c use of man instead of human or person is intentional here; Nietzsche—at least judging from his writings—mistrusted women and female capabilities, and did not count women among his future Overmen.) How did readers react to this provocative theory? Aside from the fact that Nietzsche had very few readers in his lifetime, some found it to be an intellectual


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rekindling of the joy of life, even in the face of hard times, and a critical evaluation of the double standard that existed in Western culture in the past: the condemna- tion of physical pleasures, combined with tacit acceptance of those pleasures when experienced on the sly. The Victorian Era (see Chapter 5) was particularly steeped in this type of hypocrisy, and many consider this reaction against hypocrisy a positive legacy of Nietzsche. But even so, there is no denying that Nietzsche’s most apparent legacy was until recently considered extremely negative , because his idea of the Overman was ad- opted by Hitler’s Third Reich as the ideal of the new German Nazi culture. Picking up on Nietzsche’s idea that power belongs by right to he who is capable of grabbing and holding on to it (an idea that was taken out of context), the Nazis saw themselves as a new race of Overmen, destined to rule the world. The weak would have no rights, and their sole purpose in life would be to provide fuel for the power of their masters. Here Hitler completely overlooked the fact that Nietzsche’s Overmen could only arise as individuals, not as a “race” or even a class of people. Would Nietzsche have approved of Hitler? Absolutely not. Nietzsche would have seen in Hitler something he despised: a man driven by the herd mentality’s resentment against others in power. Nietzsche’s writings may be full of acerbic re- marks about the English, about Christians, and about Platonists, but he didn’t spare the German people, either. He had little respect for his own Germanic legacy, which is why he moved to Switzerland. Furthermore, he was a sworn enemy of totalitarian- ism, because he viewed it as just another way to enslave capable people and prevent them from using their own willpower. In addition, Nietzsche had no patience or sympathy for anti-Semitism, and had a profound dislike for his brother-in-law, a known anti-Semite (see Box 10.7). The fact remains, however, that Nietzsche’s writ- ings include elements that seem to lead to the abuse, or at least the neglect, of the weak by the strong. Because of Hitler’s use of his writings, Nietzsche was a closed subject in philosophy for almost thirty years after World War II—he was too con- troversial to touch. Today we can view his ideas with more detachment, but it is still diffi cult to reconcile his enthusiasm for life with the disdain for the weaker human beings—a disturbing mixture of free thought and contempt. But how did it happen that Nietzsche’s ideas became the house philosophy of Hitler and his associates? In Box 10.7 you can read the astonishing story of the role his sister Elisabeth played.

The Eternal Return, and the Authentic Life

One of Nietzsche’s most infamous ∕ famous statements is that “God is dead”; by that Nietzsche did not mean that Christ had died, or that there is no God per se , but that faith in God was waning if not gone altogether, and as a result the guarantees of stable, universal values provided by a faith in God had disappeared. For Nietzsche, there are no absolute values in the absence of God ; there are no values except those we as humans decide on. Box 10.8 explores the question whether everything is permitted if there is no God. For many people that would mean that morality has lost its sanc- tion, so they lose faith in everything and become nihilists . The word nihilism is often mentioned in connection with Nietzsche. As you know from Chapter 3, it comes

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Elisabeth Nietzsche’s role in her brother’s life has long been recognized as an extremely powerful one, and toward the end of his life rather peculiar: She used to invite scholars to “view” her brother who was by then unable to communicate coherently. However, her infl u- ence on him and in particular his philosophi- cal legacy has been far deeper than previously suspected. As children Friedrich and Elisabeth were close, but for a number of years they were not on the best of terms. Elisabeth mar- ried a man whom Friedrich despised, Bernard Förster. Förster was a well-known racist agi- tator, espousing violently anti-Semitic views. He was fi red from his position as a teacher because of his racist politics, and soon after- wards he started recruiting Germans of “pure blood” for an emigration plan. He viewed Germany as having betrayed its citizens of Germanic descent by allowing people of “non- Aryan descent” to fl ourish. (The concept of an “Aryan race” is a misunderstanding, perpe- trated by Förster and others, then by Hitler, and eventually by today’s Neo-Nazis. “Aryan” refers to a group of languages, not a race.) Elisabeth Nietzsche Förster agreed with her husband on his anti-Semitic views, and helped him distribute racist pamphlets. When Förster heard about land being available in a far-away country, Paraguay, he bought the property un- seen and set about to create a “new Germany,” Nueva Germania , where only pure “Aryans” were allowed. In 1886 Elisabeth traveled with her husband to Paraguay with a small group of hopeful colonists: fourteen families, and their life savings. The land Förster had purchased turned out to be a remote swamp, and three years into the social experiment of restarting the “Aryan” race the colony was falling apart: Elisabeth and Förster had mismanaged the colonists’ money, and Förster committed sui- cide. Elisabeth got word that her brother was

ill in Germany and needed her help, so she abandoned the colonists to their own device and traveled home to Germany. While the colony was struggling to sur- vive, Elisabeth was back in Germany tend- ing to her brother. During his fi nal years she proclaimed herself curator of his works, and after his death she took on the task of edit- ing his unpublished works. It now appears that her editing was quite “creative”: The Ni- etzsche Archives in Weimar, Germany, has her original inserts of her own writing into her brother’s works, with simple cut-and-paste methods. She passed it off as her brother’s, giving it an edge of bigotry that would have made Förster proud. Toward the end of her life, in the early years of German Nazism, she managed to get the attention of Adolf Hitler and other prominent Nazis. She inspired them to use Nietzsche’s philosophy (with her own edits) as a blueprint for Nazi ideology. Thus the connection was forged between Nietzsche and the anti-Semitic, totalitarian views of the Nazi regime. Hitler regarded her very highly, and when she died, he gave her the funeral of a “mother of the fatherland.” Because of the presumed connection between Nietzsche’s philosophy and Hitler, it wasn’t until the nineteen eighties that philosophers felt com- fortable researching Nietzsche’s philosophy and writing about him; during this research it became clear that much of the supposed pre- Nazi leanings of Nietzsche were in fact infused into his works by his sister. This doesn’t mean that Nietzsche was beyond bigotry, or that ev- erything that Hitler used from his writings was invented by Elisabeth; Nietzsche had strong feelings against many thinkers, individuals, and population groups, and he did advocate the theory of the Overman, but Nazism would have been entirely unacceptable in his philos- ophy of the strong individual.

Box 10.7 E L I S A B E T H N I E T Z S C H E — H E R B R O T H E R ’ S K E E P E R ?



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But what about the colony in Paraguay? For- gotten Fatherland , a book published by reporter Ben MacIntyre in 1992, sheds light on the fate of the colonists: Abandoned and forgotten by the world, they struggled to stay alive and racially pure in the Peruvian jungle. Over the decades and into the twentieth century, it persisted with dwindling, new generations of pure “Aryan” blood, because the colonists had transferred their racial hatred from Jews to the local Para- guayan Indians, and intermarriage was not an option for them. The result: massive genetic

inbreeding. MacIntyre set out to fi nd the colony in the late 1980s, and found a small German vil- lage frozen in time, with inhabitants so plagued by genetic diseases and mental problems that a healthy child was a rarity. However, this is not the end of the story of the Förster colony: A newspaper article reported in 1998 that the colonist descendants had begun to merge with and marry into the local Indian tribes, and speak their language. With a larger gene pool, the inbreeding problem vanished; social ties ex- panded, and so did commerce.

Box 10.7 E L I S A B E T H N I E T Z S C H E — H E R B R O T H E R ’ S K E E P E R ? (continued)

from the Latin word nihil (nothing), and usually means that there is no foundation for believing in anything, and that existence is senseless and absurd. On occasion Nietzsche himself has been called a nihilist by critics, but is that correct? There seem to be two differing views of what Nietzsche really meant by the con- cept: 1) If God is dead, then everything is permitted, and you soon despair because there are no absolute values, so you become a nihilist, or 2) even if you realize that there are no objective values or truth because there is no God, you must make your own values. By doing so you affi rm life and your own strength as a human being, so you are not a nihilist. Most contemporary Nietzsche scholars believe that is what he means, not that there is nothing to believe in. For Nietzsche a nihilist is someone who has misunderstood the message that God is dead, and has joined the nay-sayers . Above all, as you read above, Nietzsche himself believed in something: In the value of life, and of affi rming life, saying yea to life . How did Nietzsche propose to say yes to life? It is easy enough to “love one’s fate” when things are going well. Anyone can say yes to life when you’re having a good time. The diffi culty is to say yes to life when it is at its worst behavior. Nietzsche wants us to love life even at its worst. And what is the worst that Nietzsche can imagine? That every- thing that has happened to you will happen again, and again, the very same way. This is the theory of the eternal return of the same . There is an anecdote of Nietzsche taking a walk one day and being struck by the awful truth: History repeats itself, and all our fears and joys will be repeated. We have experienced them before, and we will experience them again, endlessly. The idea horrifi ed him, and he was forced to consider the question, Even if you know that you will have to go through the same tedious, painful stuff over and over again, would you choose to, willingly? As with the theory of nihilism, there are two interpretations to this problem: 1) One holds that Nietzsche actually believed that everything repeats itself. We’re doomed to live the same life over and over again, life is absurd, and our existence is pointless. This is the interpretation that also holds that Nietzsche was himself a nihilist. And, to be sure, such

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An intriguing precursor to Nietzsche’s theory of the Overman, and the idea that without God there are no absolute values, was published in 1866 and translated into German: Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment . (Nietzsche’s own books, Beyond Good and Evil and the Genealogy of Morals, were published in 1886 and 1887). This story of moral and amoral behavior follows the young bright student Raskolnikov in St. Petersburg of the nineteenth century, moving inexorably from philosophical thoughts of the brilliant mind being elevated above the morals of the masses to deciding that he himself, a brilliant mind, is not bound by the morals of society— after which he proceeds to commit murder. In effect, Raskolnikov is a harbinger of Nietzsche’s Overman: He sees himself as having special permission to go beyond good and evil, until the magnitude of what he has done brings him back to an appreciation of the common moral law. In a peculiar parallel from the late twenti- eth century, the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was interviewed at length after his conviction, while

he was serving a life sentence, before being murdered by an inmate. Dahmer spoke from a state of— presumably—deep contrition, explain- ing that he had gotten the impression from his teachers that there is no God, so everything is permitted, and he needed not heed the common moral (or even criminal) laws, because he would not be held accountable in an afterlife. So he proceeded to do what he wanted: murder young men, and dismember them. Later, after he was caught, he returned to a religious point of view, and felt remorse. The philosopher in the second half of the twentieth century who has been the most infl u- enced by Nietzsche is probably Jean-Paul Sartre, whose existentialism is inspired by Nietzsche’ s view that there is no God, so there are no abso- lute God-given moral standards, and we have to rise to the occasion and create our own stan- dards. Sartre’s standards are envisioned as a guideline for everyone, though, and not for an elite of Overmen. We look at Sartre later in this chapter.

Box 10.8 W I T H O U T G O D , I S E V E R Y T H I N G P E R M I T T E D ?

theories surface from time to time. A Hindu philosophy claims that the universe repeats itself endlessly down to the smallest detail, and some astrophysicists believe that the uni- verse will end in a Big Crunch, after which we will have another Big Bang, and so forth. 2) The other interpretation, favored by today’s Nietzsche experts, is that Nietzsche had come up with the ultimate test of a person’s authenticity and life-affi rmation: What if everything repeats itself endlessly? In that case, could you say that you would want to live life over again? If you can answer, “Let’s have it one more time!” then you truly love life, and you have passed the test. Which interpretation is correct? Is the “eternal return” real, or is it a thought experiment so Nietzsche can make a moral point? Either way, the idea of the eternal return serves as a good test for our love of life. To be sure, Nietzsche’s own life wasn’t exactly the kind of life one might want repeated: endless illnesses, endless quarrels with people who didn’t see things the way Nietzsche saw them, fallings out with friends, experiencing war, hav- ing to give up his job, getting little public recognition or understanding for his writings, being turned down by publisher after publisher, having no personal life to speak of, liv- ing with disturbing thoughts and anxieties the further he got into his mental illness, and fi nally sinking into a mental darkness that we can barely imagine. And yet he himself believed he passed the test of the eternal return, and became a yea-sayer.


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How would you do on Nietzsche’s test? The same exams, the same driving tests, the same falling in and out of love, being stood up, having wisdom teeth pulled, being sick, submitting tax returns, etc. … the same vacations, the same marriages and children, the same hopes and fears—would you do it over again, the bad with the good? If yes, Nietzsche congratulates you. You have won the battle against doubt, weakness, lukewarm existence and nihilism, and you will experience the ultimate joy of life in the face of meaninglessness.

Heidegger’s Intellectual Authenticity

Martin Heidegger is an enigmatic and controversial philosopher. He is enigmatic because he aims to make people break through the old boundaries of thinking by inventing new words and categories for them to think with. That means there is no easy way to read Heidegger; you must acquaint yourself with an entirely new vocab- ulary of key concepts and get used to a new way of looking at reality. In spite of his rather inaccessible style, though, Heidegger has become something of a cult fi gure in modern European philosophy. He is controversial because he was a member of the Nazi Party during World War II (see Box 10.9). Heidegger sees human beings as not essentially distinct from the world they in- habit, in the same sense that traditional epistemology does: There is no “subject” on the inside of a person and no “object” of experience on the outside. Rather, humans are thrown into the world at birth, and they interact with it and in a sense “live” it. There is no such thing as a person who is distinct from his or her world of experience—we are our world of experience. This idea of interaction with the world from the beginning of life is one that Heidegger took over from his teacher and mentor Edmund Husserl, but he adds his own twist to it: What makes humans special is not that they are on the inside and the world is on the outside, but that they experience their existence differ- ently than all other beings do. Humans are there for themselves; they are aware of their existence and of certain essential facts about that existence, such as their own mortality. So Heidegger calls humans “Being-there” ( Dasein ) rather than “humans.” Things, on the other hand, don’t know they exist, and to Heidegger neither do animals; an animal

Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), German philosopher and poet and a member of the National Socialist Party, believed authentic life is a life open to the possibility of different meanings. The feeling of angst can help jolt us out of our complacency and help us see the world from an intellectually fl exible point of view.

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While we can determine that any connection be- tween Nietzsche and Hitler’s regime was estab- lished outside of his control and after his death, by his sister, such is not the case for Heidegger. At the time of Hitler’s takeover of Germany in 1933, Martin Heidegger’s philosophy professor, Edmund Husserl, was head of the philosophy department at the University of Freiburg. Husserl was already a famous philosopher, having devel- oped the theory of phenomenology, a philosophi- cal theory of human experience. Its main thesis is that there is no such thing as a consciousness that is empty at fi rst and then proceeds to order and analyze the objects of sense experience; in- stead, our mind is already engaged in the process of experiencing the world from day one. We can’t separate the concepts of the experiencing mind and the experience of the mind, and, because it is impossible for philosophy to say anything about a nonexperiencing mind and the unexperienced object-world, phenomenology sees its primary task as describing, as clearly as possible, the phe- nomenon of experience itself. Husserl had been the essential inspiration for many of Heidegger’s writings; in fact, he had taken Heidegger under

his wing when Heidegger was a young scholar. Husserl was Jewish, though, which meant that he was targeted for persecution by the new Nazi leaders. He was fi red from his university position and eventually died as a result of Nazi harass- ment. Heidegger, his former student and pro- tégé, profi ted from those events by taking over Husserl’s position as department chair; indeed, it seems that he never raised any protest against the treatment of his old professor. At that time Heidegger joined the Nazi Party for, as he ex- plained later, purely professional reasons: He couldn’t have kept his university position with- out becoming a party member. That appears to be stretching the truth, for Heidegger never did anything at all to distance himself from the Nazi ideology during the war years. Today people are divided in their views on Heidegger; some feel that because of his Nazi association, his phi- losophy is tainted and must somehow contain elements of Nazi thinking. Others believe that Heidegger was essentially apolitical, although he was not very graceful about it; they think his philosophy should be viewed independent of his personal life.

Box 10.9 H E I D E G G E R A N D T H E N A Z I C O N N E C T I O N

may know it is hungry, or in pain, or in heat, but it doesn’t know its days are num- bered, and that makes the difference. Our humanity consists primarily of our continu- ous awareness of death, our “Being-toward-death” ( Sein-zum-Tode ). On occasion we let ourselves get distracted, because that awareness is quite a burden on our minds, and we let ourselves forget. We become absorbed in our jobs, our feelings, the gossip we hear, the nonsense around us. According to Heidegger, we often refer to what “They” say, as if the opinion of those anonymous others has some obvious authority. We bow to what “They” say and believe we are safe from harm and responsibility if we can get absorbed by this ubiquitous “They” ( Das Man ) and don’t have to think on our own. In other words, we try to take on the safe and nonthinking existence-form of things—we objectify ourselves. That does not make an authentic life, however, and in any event it is doomed to failure because we can’t forget so completely. Humans just can’t become things, be- cause we are the ones who understand the relationship between ourselves and things. When we do the dishes we understand what plates are for, what glasses are for, and


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why they must be cleaned. We understand the entire “doing dishes” situation. When we prepare a presentation on our computer, we understand what a report is, what a computer is, and why the two have anything to do with ourselves, even if we may not understand what the report is for or how the computer works. In the end, humans are different because we can ask, What is it for? and understand the interconnections of the world we live in. We are asking, thinking creatures, and to regain our awareness of that fact, we must face our true nature. We may pretend to be nothing but victims of circumstances (I have to do the dishes; there is no other choice), but we also can choose to realize that we interact with our world and affect it. In Being and Time (1927), Heidegger calls this phenomenon (in his exasperating style) “An-already-thrown-into- the-world-kind-of-Being who is existing-in- relationship-to-existing-entities-within- that-world” ( Sich-vorweg-schon-sein-in [der-Welt] als Sein-bei [innerwelt-lich begegendem Seindenen] ). But he also describes it, in a slightly more down-to-earth fashion, as the structure of care. “Being-theres” always “care” about something, Heidegger says. That doesn’t mean humans care for others, or for things—it merely means we are always engaged in something (the state of being engaged in something Heidegger called care— Sorge ). Sometimes this involves caring for others, but mostly it involves engaging in our own existence: We fret, we worry, we look forward to something, we’re con- cerned, we’re content, we’re disappointed about something—our health, our promo- tion, our family’s well-being, our new kittens, or the exciting experiences we anticipate on our next vacation. This “Care-Structure” means that we are always engaged in some part of our reality, unless we get caught up in another and deeper element of human nature: a mood, such as dread or anguish— angst . Heidegger’s concept of angst is related to Kierkegaard’s: It does not involve fear of something in particular; it is, rather, the unpleasant and sometimes terrifying in- security of not knowing where you stand in life and eventually having to make a choice—perhaps with little or no information about your options. For Kierkegaard this experience is related to a religious awakening, but for Heidegger the awaken- ing is metaphysical: You realize that all your concerns and all the rules you live by are relative, in the deepest sense; you realize that you have viewed the world a certain way, within a certain frame, and now for some reason the frame is breaking up. A woman may feel angst if she loses her tenured job at a university, not just because she is worried about how she will provide for her family, but also because her worldview—her professional identity and sense of security—has been under- mined. A young man may feel angst if he learns he has an incurable disease—not just because he is afraid to die, but also because “this isn’t supposed to happen” to a young person. Children may feel angst if they are drawn into a divorce battle be- tween their parents. A hitherto religious person may feel angst if he or she begins to doubt the existence of God, because that is the breakup of the ultimate framework. And humans may feel angst when they realize that their worldview is somehow not a God-given truth. People whose attitude toward the world is inauthentic may experience the most fundamental form of angst. Heidegger himself states that if a Being-there is open to the possibility of different meanings in his or her reality, then he or she is living an authentic life. If, however, a Being-there does not want to accept the possibility that

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something may have a different meaning than he or she has believed up until now, then he or she is inauthentic. A typical trait of those who are inauthentic is that they become absorbed in just reacting to the things in their world—in driving the car, loading the laundry into the dryer, working on the computer, shopping, watching TV. Such persons think the predigested opinions of others or of the media are suf- fi cient for getting by; they let themselves become absorbed in “The They,” das Man. But what does authenticity mean? Is it a call to “get in touch with yourself” by pulling away from the world? Or is it just a banal reminder to “stay open-minded”? Even worse, is it a built-in feature of being human, something we can’t escape? Some Heidegger scholars see it not just as a call to reexamine yourself or to avoid harden- ing of the brain cells; to them authenticity is a fundamentally different attitude from one by which we allow the readily available worldviews of others to rule our lives. Being authentic means, for Heidegger, that you stop being absorbed by your doings and retain an attitude that “things may mean something else than what I expect.” Only through this kind of intellectual fl exibility can we even begin to think about making judgments about anything else, be they facts or people. So authenticity is, in a sense, remaining “open-minded,” but it also involves performing a greater task by constantly forcing yourself to realize that reality is in fl ux, that things change, in- cluding yourself, and that you are part of a world of changing relationships. And this causes angst, because it means you have to give up your anchors and security zones as a matter of principle. In the end, angst becomes a liberating element that can give us a new and perhaps better understanding of ourselves and the world, but it is hard to deal with while we are in the midst of it.

Sartre’s Ethical Authenticity

For some people angst is simply an existential fact, something we have to live with all our days. Jean-Paul Sartre is one of those people. Sartre is the best known of the French existentialists of the mid–twentieth century; others include Albert Camus, Gabriel Marcel, and Simone de Beauvoir. Sartre studied phenomenology (the discipline of the phenomenon of human consciousness and experience) in Berlin during the years between the two world wars, and he was well acquainted with the theories of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. During World War II Sartre was held by the Nazis as a prisoner of war, but he escaped and joined forces with the French Resistance movement. Those experiences in many ways infl uenced his outlook on politics and on life in general: His political views were socialist and at times even Marxist, to a certain degree. Always politically active, Sartre may well be considered the most infl uential philos- opher in twentieth-century Europe and possibly elsewhere—perhaps not as much because of his philosophical or literary writings (for Sartre was also a dramatist and a novelist) as because of his intellectual inspiration. The existential movement may not have refl ected a completely faithful version of the Sartrean philosophy, but it is certain that in his own century Sartre inspired the most extensive philosophical movement ever to reach people outside the academic world—the movement of existentialism.


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Although existentialism as a fad in the 1950s became stereotyped as the interest of morose young people who dressed in black, chain-smoked late at night in small cafés, and read poems to one another about the absurdity of life, Sartre’s existential- ism had a whole other and more substantial content. Partly inspired by his experi- ences during the war, Sartre came to believe that there is no God and that because there is no God, there are no absolute moral rules either. The concept that God’s nonexistence makes everything permissible was not new at the time; it was well known to Western readers of Dostoyevsky and his novel The Brothers Karamazov as well as to readers of Friedrich Nietzsche. But it was given a new twist by Sartre. Instead of saying, as many other atheists did, that we can fi nd our values in our own human context and rationality, Sartre held that without the existence of a God, there are no values, in the sense that there are no objective values. There is no master plan and, accordingly, nothing in the world makes sense; all events happen at random, and life is absurd. So what do we do? Give a shrug, and set about to make merry while we can? No, we must realize that because no values exist outside ourselves, we, as individuals in a community, become the source of values. And the process by which we create values is the process of choice. When a person realizes that he or she has to make a choice and that the choice will have far-reaching consequences, that person may be gripped by anguish —Sartre uses the image of a general having to choose whether to send his soldiers to their death. It is not a decision that can be made lightly by a person of conscience, and such a person may worry about it a great deal, precisely because he doesn’t know before- hand whether he will make the right decision. If he realizes the enormity of the situ- ation and still makes his choice as best he can, shouldering whatever consequences may develop, he is living with authenticity. However, suppose the general says to himself, “I have to send the soldiers out, for the sake of my country∕my reputation∕the book I want to write.” Then he is acting inauthentically: He is assuming that he has no choice. But for Sartre, we always have a choice. Even the soldier who is ordered to kill civilians still has a choice, although he may claim he will be executed if he

French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was recognized as the most infl uential thinker in the existentialist movement. His best-known works of philosophy are the lecture “Existentialism Is a Humanism” (1945) and the much larger, much more intellectually challenging Being and Nothingness (1943).

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doesn’t follow orders and thus has no choice. For Sartre, there are some things that are worse than death, such as killing innocent civilians. So claiming that one’s ac- tions are somehow determined by the situation is inauthenticity or, as Sartre calls it, bad faith. Bad faith can be displayed in another way too: Suppose the general is so distraught at having to make a choice that he says, “I just won’t choose—I’ll lock myself in the bathroom and wait until it is over.” In that case, Sartre would say, the general is deluding himself, because he is already making a choice— the choice not to choose —and thus he is in even less control of the consequences of his choice than if he actually had chosen a course of action. In our hearts we know this, and Sartre maintains we can never deceive ourselves 100 percent. There will always be a part of us that knows we are not like animals or inert things that can’t make choices, simply because we are human beings, and human beings make choices, at least from time to time. Animals and things can exist without making choices, but humans can’t, because humans are aware of their own existence and their own mortality; they have a relationship to themselves (they exist “for themselves,” pour soi ), whereas animals and things merely fl oat through existence (they exist “in themselves,” en soi ). In Being and Nothingness (1943), Sartre says:

Thus there are no accidents in a life; a community event which suddenly bursts forth and involves me in it does not come from the outside. If I am mobilized in a war, this war is my war; it is in my image and I deserve it. I deserve it fi rst because I could always get out of it by suicide or by desertion; these ultimate possibilities are those which must always be present for us when there is a question of envisaging a situation. For lack of getting out of it, I have chosen it. This can be due to inertia, to cowardice in the face of public opinion, or because I prefer certain other values to the value of the refusal to join in the war (the good opinion of my relatives, the honor of my family, etc.). Any way you look at it, it is a matter of choice. . . . If therefore I have preferred war to death or dishonor, everything takes place as if I bore the entire responsibility for this war.

How does bad faith manifest itself? Sartre’s famous example involves a young woman on a date. The woman’s date makes a subtle move on her—he grasps her hand—and she doesn’t quite know what to do. She doesn’t want to offend him or to appear to be prudish, but she really doesn’t know whether she wants to have a re- lationship with him either. So she does nothing. She somehow manages to “detach” herself from the situation, as if her body really doesn’t concern her, and, while he moves in on her, her hand seems not to belong to her at all. She looks at his face and pretends that she has no hand, no body, no sexuality at all. This, says Sartre, is bad faith: The woman thinks she can turn herself into a thing by acting thinglike, but it is an illusion, because through it all she knows that sooner or later she has to say yes or no. What should she do to be authentic? She should realize that she has to make up her mind, even if she can’t foresee whether she will want to have a relationship or not. Making up her mind will then create a new situation for her to react to, even though it is essentially unforeseeable. This openness to the unforeseen is part of being authentic. When we make a choice, Sartre says, we are taking on the greatest of responsibilities, for we are choosing not only for ourselves and our lives but for everyone else too. Whatever choice we make sends out the message to everyone else


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that “this is okay to do.” Therefore, through our choices we become role models for others. If we choose to pay our taxes, others will notice and believe that it is the right thing to do. If we choose to sell drugs to little children, somebody out there will see it and think it is a good idea. (Interestingly, doing something just because someone else is doing it is not enough for Sartre; as we saw in the section on Mayo’s theory of role models, true authenticity must come from personal choices and not from just following role models.) Whatever we choose, even if we think it will concern only ourselves, actually will concern all of humanity, because we are endorsing our ac- tion as a general virtue. That is why choices can be so fraught with anxiety—and for Sartre that anxiety never goes away. We must live with it, and with the burden of the choice, forever. We are free to choose, but we are not free to refrain from choosing. In other words, we are condemned to be free. This emphasis on human freedom is one of the strongest in the history of phi- losophy and one of the most radical, demanding theories of freedom of the will. You’ll remember from Chapter 4 that historically, there has been a dispute between supporters of the idea of free will and supporters of what we call hard determinism, the theory that everything in human life as well as in nature is determined by causal fac- tors: heredity and environment, or nature and nurture. Sartre is one of the strongest critics of the theory of hard determinism, claiming that every kind of explanation of human actions that refers to outside forces or some kind of inner compulsion—in other words, any view that implies that we have no choice—is bunk, a bad excuse, or—in the terminology of existentialism—bad faith. Free will is our only “nature” as human beings; it is in a sense our fate to have no fate, to always be faced with mul- tiple possibilities and the need to make choices, without having control over their consequences—and live with the resulting anguish. That, to Sartre, is living as an authentic human being. So can we at least fi nd comfort in the company of other people, close friends, lovers, or relatives who also have to face hard choices? For Sartre, that presents no real solution; the presence of the Other—another person, different from myself— only reminds me of my absolute responsibility to make choices. And besides, the very presence of the Other is problematic in itself: When another person looks at me, and our eyes meet, he or she is always trying to dominate me, as I am trying to dominate him or her. For Sartre every human relationship is a game of dominance using the gaze as a tool of power, and this is especially the case for relationships be- tween lovers. Essentially, we are alone with our choices and responsibilities. In the Narratives section you’ll fi nd two stories, each of which in its own way is a wonderful illustration of exactly what Sartre is talking about. The fi rst is an excerpt from Sartre’s own stage play No Exit —for Sartre was also a writer of plays and novels—in which three people face one another in their own self-made hell; and next you have a sum- mary of the fi lm Good Will Hunting, about a young man who lives in bad faith because he lacks the courage to make choices with consequences. But how can we make a choice if the world is absurd and all our actions are meaningless? When we fi rst experience the absurdity of existence, we may feel nau- seated, dizzy from the idea that reality has no core or meaning. But then we realize we must create a meaning; we must choose for something to matter to us. For Sartre,

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the social conditions of France became a theme that mattered to him, but you might choose something else—your family, your job, or your Barbie doll collection. Any kind of life project will create values, as long as you realize that the world is still ab- surd in spite of your project! If you think you are “safe” with your family or your job or your doll collection—if you think you’ve created a rock-solid meaning for your life—then you’ve fallen back into bad faith. This is the case with the waiter (another of Sartre’s examples) who wants so badly to become the perfect waiter that he takes on a “waiter identity” that provides answers to everything: how to speak, what to say, how to walk, where to go. The waiter has not chosen a project; he has turned himself into a thing, an “in itself” that doesn’t have to choose anymore. Living authentically means living in anguish, always on the edge—confronting the absurdity of life and courageously making choices in the face of meaninglessness. When something you care about appears, then you will know what to do. The French philosopher and novelist Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre’s signifi cant other and his collaborator on the subject of existentialism, puts it like this: “Any man who has known real loves, real revolts, real desires, and real will knows quite well that he has no need of any outside guarantee to be sure of his goals.” Suppose you decide you’ll do something about your life tomorrow . That next year you’ll write that novel. Or go back to college. Suppose you decide you should have married someone else, had children, gone to see the Pyramids, or become a movie actor. Then there is not much hope for your authenticity, says Sartre, because your virtue lies only in what you accomplish, not in choices you make about things you are planning to do. If you never start that book, you have no right to claim you are a promising writer. If you never tried to become an actor, then you can’t complain that you’re a great undiscovered talent. We are not authentically anything but what we do, and we are hiding from reality if we think we are more than that. Like Aristotle, Sartre links the value of our virtue with the success of our conduct: Intentions may be good, but they aren’t enough. (For an exploration of the issue of personal identity as it relates to authenticity, see Box 10.10).

Levinas and the Face of the Other

Emmanuel Levinas (1905–1995) was born the same year as Sartre, but whereas Sartre became a philosopher of the mid–twentieth century, Levinas was a late bloomer and became one of the leading voices of French philosophy only in the last decades of the twentieth century. His most important works are Totality and Infi nity (1961; translated into English, 1969) and Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence (1974; translated into English, 1981). In many ways his experience parallels that of Sartre. He, too, became interested in the philosophies of Husserl and Heidegger in Germany; indeed, his interest preceded Sartre’s by more than a decade, and it was Levinas, not Sartre, who introduced those ideas to the French public with books on Husserl and Heidegger. (According to Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, when reading Levinas’s book on Husserl, exclaimed, “This is the philosophy I wanted to write!”— although Sartre afterward claimed he could do it better.) Like Sartre, Levinas was a prisoner of war during World War II, doing forced labor for the Nazis; also like


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Sartre, he developed a highly personal philosophy based on his early interest in German phenomenology. Both became recognized as distinguished scholars within the fi eld of philosophy. But there the similarities end. Sartre was French by birth, whereas Levinas—born a Lithuanian—became French by choice. Whereas Sartre’s Catholic belief in God came to an end, Levinas never lost his Jewish faith. Whereas Sartre developed his existential philosophy based on the fundamental anguish of the choice—an essentially lonely enterprise—Levinas sees the bottom line of all human existence as the encounter with the Other, not in a competition for dominance, as

The question of Who am I? is something you may encounter in a philosophy class focusing on metaphysics, or theory of knowledge (epis- temology), but you don’t fi nd it often within a discussion about ethics. The assumption is, pre- sumably, that once we start worrying about how to behave with others, we’re already fairly sure who we are. But that is, of course, not necessarily the case, and even if we are familiar with our- selves, there is more to the sense of self than just a descriptive level: We shouldn’t forget the norma- tive level. William Shakespeare says, in Hamlet,

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as night the day, Thou can’st not then be false to any man.

Here Shakespeare assumes that we’re fairly fa- miliar with who we are but that this awareness also carries a moral virtue, and a duty: to have integrity and be true to ourselves—the best in ourselves, that is. (Presumably it doesn’t imply that once you know your weaknesses, you should cultivate them!) Understanding who we are so that we can become better persons is an idea that dates back to Socrates—he interpreted the inscription “Know Thyself” at the Apollo temple in Delphi as meaning just that: intro- spection with self-improvement as a result. Let us take a look at three examples: For the existentialists such as Sartre the con- cept of authenticity captures the moral value of knowing oneself; it isn’t merely a question of

being comfortable with who you are, or even of constantly questioning yourself and your role in life; more important, you must be able to act out of a sense of integrity, and with absence of bad faith, in everything you do. For American psychologists, the idea of knowing oneself has been labeled as having ego integrity ever since the infl uential German-born analyst Erik Erikson (1902–1994) coined the term. Erikson, who also identifi ed and named the phenomenon identity crisis, saw ego integ- rity as having inner harmony and balance of the mind; you don’t dwell on what might have been, or how others have done you wrong, but accept things you have no control over. For the thinker who is interested in story- telling, such as the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1913–2005), the quest for personal identity becomes a quest for self-comprehension through telling one’s own story. Finding one’s nar- rative self doesn’t mean that we remember ev- erything and then put it into words, or that we tell everything exactly like it was, but that we fi nd our character arc in the process of connect- ing the dots in our life—seeing a pattern in the events leading up to the present time. In all these cases we are talking about a nor- mative approach to personal identity: First we must understand who we are, and then that un- derstanding must make a difference in the rest of our lives. In that way the quest for personal identity becomes a moral journey.

Box 10.10 P E R S O N A L I D E N T I T Y A S A N E T H I C A L I S S U E

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Sartre sometimes would express it, but in coming face-to-face with another human being and realizing that the Other is alive, looking at you, speaking to you, needing you to recognize him or her as someone who is fundamentally different from you and fundamentally vulnerable. Levinas maintains that “ethics precedes ontology”: Under- standing the needs of the Other and my own responsibility for the needs of the Other comes before any philosophy about existence. That is why Levinas has described ethics as “First Philosophy”: This is the foundation and the beginning point, which we are normally not even aware of but where we encounter what is really important in life: the face of the Other. As we have seen, many modern theories of ethics state that everyone ought to be treated as equal. Bentham talks about how each person has one vote in terms of his or her pain and pleasure; Kant claims that all persons should be viewed as ends in themselves; Rawls points out that justice consists of treating all persons with fairness regardless of who they are. The Golden Rule is in effect even in philosophical sys- tems that are otherwise opposed to one another. For Levinas, there is nothing wrong with the political quest for equality, but that quest is not fundamental to ethics; what is fundamental is another experience altogether. When I meet another human being, another face, the ethical reaching out to that person consists in realizing precisely that we are not equal. Levinas is not saying I am “better” than the Other. On the contrary, the Other counts more than I: The Other, no matter who he or she is, is a person in need, always “poor” and asking for my help and understanding; fi rst and foremost the Other is telling me, “You must not kill.” As Levinas says in a dialogue with Richard Kearney:

The approach to the face is the most basic mode of responsibility. As such, the face of the other is verticality and uprightness; it spells a relation of rectitude. The face is not in front of me ( en face de moi ) but above me; it is the other before death, looking through and exposing death. Secondly, the face is the other who asks me not to let him die alone, as if to do so were to become an accomplice in his death. Thus the face says to me: you shall not kill. . . . In ethics, the other’s right to exist has primacy over my own, a primacy epitomized in the ethical edict: you shall not kill, you shall not jeop- ardize the life of the other. The ethical rapport is asymmetrical in that it subordinates my existence to the other.

The Lithuanian-French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1905–1995) believed that ethics is the deepest and most primary human experience: We see the other person looking at us and we hear him or her talking to us, and we understand that this is someone whose life is precious and irreplaceable. The Other commands us not to kill, and we feel obliged to place his or her needs above our own.


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Of course, that is not really a description of most actual encounters between people; fortunately, we rarely fi nd ourselves in situations in which we are begging for our lives. But for Levinas, that encounter is the underlying foundation beneath all human encounters: The face is naked, the eyes are pleading, the voice speaks. For Levinas, the true ethical moment happens when we are being addressed by the Other. In response, it is not enough to say, “Well, he or she is just the same as I am, we are all humans.” That, to Levinas, is not going far enough, or it is going too far: That would be making us all into some collective form of being, some anonymous humanity. Instead, we are supposed to say, “He∕she is completely different from what I am, so his∕her life is my responsibility.” That is the unequal, asymmetrical situation, the alterity (otherness) of the Other, which makes the other human individual our responsibility. In particular, it is the Other’s voice that calls to us, more so than looking into his or her eyes. Sartre’s existential phi- losophy has often alluded to the power of the gaze, the eyes trying to dominate the other person’s, but Levinas sees the typical encounter between humans as not only a visual but also an aural experience: You hear the voice speak to you, and you respond by being there for the other person. And when you respond with your whole being in acceptance that the Other is there, demanding attention, then you become special to the Other, you become irreplaceable. For Levinas, humans in an ethical relationship with each other recognize the Other as irre- placeable, “non-substitutable.” The loss of the Other can’t be made up for by fi nd- ing another. (Box 10.11 explains how Levinas would look at the story of Abraham and Isaac in terms of the face of the Other.) So is that the way things actually are between people, or is it the way Levinas thinks they ought to be? In other words, is he being descriptive or normative? Elegantly, Levinas answers that the encounter is something that happens before we even think in such categories: The encounter with the Other is not merely an actual situation but also the framework within which human encounters take place, so it is the way we actually meet, deep down before we start speculating about existence and responsibility and all the rest, but it is also in a sense the way one ought to meet each individual person—because (sadly) not everyone sees other people as unique

Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, shows a young woman looking over her left shoul- der straight at the painter, which means she is looking straight out of the canvas, at us. She has been looking at us since she was painted in approximately 1665. Do you feel the power of her gaze, across time and space? Is this the face of the Other, as Levinas would say, asking for our human sympathy and aid?

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You may remember a section in Chapter 2 deal- ing with the biblical story of Abraham about to sacrifi ce his son Isaac to God. To briefl y reca- pitulate: Abraham believes that God has told him to sacrifi ce his and Sarah’s only son, so he takes young Isaac up on the mountain, let- ting Isaac carry the fi rewood; Isaac is wonder- ing where the sacrifi cial lamb is, but Abraham explains that God will provide. On the top of the hill, they build the sacrifi cial altar, and Abraham straps his son down and is ready to slaughter him when the voice of God intervenes and rewards Abraham for his faith in God’s command. Kierkegaard (whom you now know better than you did in Chapter 2) said that Abra- ham’s attempt to sacrifi ce his son violated the ethics of the community, but believing that he served God’s purpose took Abraham to a higher stage—to the religious stage, which he had to ascend to by a leap of faith—bringing him into direct contact with God. Levinas, on the other

hand, believes that Kierkegaard misunderstood the entire situation: The important moment is not that Abraham disregards his beloved son for God’s sake but that Abraham through the voice of Isaac himself is called back from the brink, back to the ethical demands of life and father- hood; in a sense, Isaac’s face intervenes on his own behalf. Levinas says that for Kierkegaard ethics is the rigid rules of the community that have to be overcome to be religious. For Levi- nas, however, ethics is the Other’s voice speak- ing to one. Essentially, Levinas sees Abraham as someone who almost made a monumental mis- take, but he sees Kierkegaard as having made the mistake of believing that the leap of faith was a matter between the individual and God alone and that to get there one had to leave behind the world of the others with their rules and mor- als. For Levinas, ethics, and in a sense also faith itself, takes place between one person and the Other.

Box 10.11 K I E R K E G A A R D , L E V I N A S , A N D A B R A H A M

individuals who are supposed to be held higher than one holds oneself; some people even see others as “merely a means to an end.” The ultimate disregard for the Other is to Levinas represented by the Nazi Holocaust (in which he lost his entire Lithuanian family). The Holocaust represents the utter evil of putting people through torture and to death not for their convictions but for their ancestry. The fact that Heidegger had been involved with the Nazi Party made Levinas say, in later years, that “one can forgive many Germans, but there are some Germans it is diffi cult to forgive. It is diffi cult to forgive Heidegger.” And, yet, the dreadful event of the Nazi death camps, where, in Levinas’s words, God was not present but the devil was, in some roundabout way did not destroy his belief in God; he says,

Before the twentieth century, all religion begins with the promise. It begins with the “Happy End.” It is the promise of heaven. Well then, doesn’t a phenomenon like Auschwitz invite you, on the contrary, to think the moral law independent of the Happy End? That is the question. . . . It is easier to tell myself to believe without promise than it is to ask it of the other. That is the idea of asymmetry. I can demand of myself that which I cannot demand of the other.

Interview with Wright, Hughes, and Ainley, in Bernasconi and Wood (1988)


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In recent years two American ph i lo sopher s , Dwight Fur- row and Mark Wheeler, have collaborated on an “ethic of care” that includes a liberal political vision of caring as the moral stan- dard for human interaction. In his book Reviving the Left (2009), Fur- row writes,

The force of morality, its motive, comes from the demands of palpable others who insist that I be responsible, who have the authority to make demands on me, and whose vulnerability and particularity motivate me to respond to their needs. The fact of being in a relationship itself constrains us, generates feelings of obligation and care, a force not unlike the force of gravity, but constantly renewing its hold over us. These fi elds of force that insist we be responsive to the face of the Other form the basis of couture and gives our lives content, meaning, and purpose.

Culture is dependent on these relationships of responsiveness and care because they engen- der social trust, which is the engine of culture. Without the belief that others are responsible and caring, our vulnerabilities overwhelm us, our sense of ourselves as capable persons evap- orates, our ability to act is disrupted by doubt and fear. We typically think of culture as made up of institutions such as the law, religion, or the art world, or as patterns of linguistic be- havior, shared traditions, or common beliefs. Culture is all of these. But underlying the insti- tutions and patterns of behavior are a network

of relationships of responsiveness and care that make the institutions and patterns of behavior possible. . . . Care, as I am using the term, is both a motive and a practice. To care for someone is to take the good of that person as a motive for my action for her sake. . . . Care is not about having warm feelings or good intentions. It is not fully expressed in merely caring about something. It demands more of us, it demands that we care for something; that we do the labor required to sustain connections and prime the wells of fl our- ishing. . . . Morality inevitably shapes politics because through moral judgment we determine what is fair, cruel, and wasteful and who is wor- thy of respect, who is needy, and what matters most. . . . Thus, for liberalism to succeed as a public philosophy, it must change culture from the ground up. “Rootstock liberalism” names both the foundation of trust and care that society must cultivate and a political consciousness that aims to build such a foundation.

This political vision of a moral society builds on several theories that you have encountered in this chapter: Virtue ethics , as it has been proposed by Philippa Foot, emphasizing character over conduct as the most important ethical element, provides the foundation for an ethic of care that looks to a general attitude of consideration, rather than setting up principles to follow. Heidegger’s Care Structure , while not similar at all to an ethic of care, still provides another founding piece, in- asmuch as it sees human life as always oriented toward something which we are engaged in, and concerned about. But most importantly, Levinas’s philosophy of the face of the Other who is always in need of our assistance and who should always be regarded as having needs more important than our own, provides the most solid foundation to the Furrow-Wheeler moral theory. But there is an additional element: Carol Gilligan’s theory of an ethic of care , as opposed to an ethic of justice . For Gilligan, moral philosophers have for many

Box 10.12 T H E N E W E T H I C O F C A R E , A P O L I T I C A L V I S I O N

Dwight Furrow, American philosopher and author, is professor of philosophy at San Diego Mesa College.

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So ethics becomes the highest form of religious faith: Without the relief of a promise of heaven, we must be there for the Other, serve the Other for no reward at all. According to Levinas, “Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God. It is believing that love without reward is valuable.” With his philosophy that we look to the Other as someone we must give our love to but who doesn’t have to return it (an ethic that is sometimes used to describe the relationship between parent and child), Levinas’s ethics stands as a complete renewal within the European tradition of autonomy, fi nding personal integrity in a relationship of the individual not to oneself but to someone else. In this he comes closest of all the modern European philosophers to an ethics of virtue, seeing the ultimate virtue as the willingness to serve the Other; as a thinker within the modern tradition of authenticity, he regards the asymmetrical relationship to the Other as the truly authentic relationship. (Box 10.12 explores a new, partially Levinas-inspired American moral philosophy, the Ethic of Care.) Remember from Chapter 4 that Levinas’s philosophy was presented as an example of ideal altruism. This ethic, which today perhaps more than any other philosophy stands for kindness and sacrifi ce of one’s self for the sake of others, is nevertheless not without controversy. Some critics see his thinking as a kind of throwback to a time when ethics were expressed in personal, even religious, terms, and further, in terms of male and fe- male. And for some critics this throwback is a serious weakness. In a disarmingly innocent way, in his early writings Levinas insisted that the Other is, essentially, feminine (something that Sartre, by the way, has also been criticized for asserting): “The feminine is other for the masculine being not only because of a different nature but also inasmuch as alterity is in some way its nature.” In later years he modifi ed his position, but it still generates discussion. Levinas’s critics see this as just another statement in the long line of sexist philosophies in which a male point of view pronounces women to be “deviant” or “different” or “really kind of strange,” and which assumes that women accept this as an objective truth. Seen in the light of this old tradition, it is small wonder that many women phi- losophers, most notably Simone de Beauvoir (see Chapter 12), have accused Levinas of being reactionary, deliberately taking a man’s point of view, seeing himself as the Absolute and the woman as the Other.

centuries focused on fairness, equality, and im- partiality, but what human beings also need from each other is what women have typically been used to providing for their families and friends: a network of caring —something that doesn’t work well with impartiality, because of course we care more about our families and friends than about

total strangers. However, the Furrow-Wheeler care ethic does envision expanding our sense of caring to our entire community and maybe even our world, as a political program. You’ll be read- ing more about Gilligan’s theory in Chapter 12, and in the Primary Readings you’ll fi nd a longer excerpt from Furrow’s Reviving the Left .


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But even if Levinas could be said to hold the opinion that woman is completely different from man, it does not mean he thinks woman is inferior to man; on the contrary, according to his theory of the Other, if anything is absolute, it is precisely the Other. In his later years, Levinas would talk about the feminine virtues of the home, of the welcoming feminine touch, the quality of “discretion” of the feminine face as opposed to the male face with its authority and self-assertion, but always in positive terms. (However, whether you regard “feminine” as inferior or supe- rior, it is still sexism to a classical feminist, see Chapter 12) A feminist philosopher, Tina Chanter, suggests that Levinas is, in fact, praising the feminine qualities as true human qualities; “feminine” does not mean biologically female to Levinas, says Chanter, and “masculine” doesn’t mean “male”; rather, each term stands for features in all of us. That interpretation (in some ways similar to the gender philosophy of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung) may give another dimension to Levinas’s controversial words about the Other as feminine. In the Primary Readings you will fi nd an ex- cerpt from an interview with Levinas in which he talks about the “face of the Other.” In the Narratives you will fi nd a summary of one of the most famous Westerns of all time, The Searchers, in which the encounter with the face of the Other is beautifully illustrated.

Study Questions

1. Evaluate the question of character versus conduct in politics. Which do you think is of higher importance for a person running for (or elected to) offi ce to have: personal integrity or a view on government that you agree with? Is there an alterna- tive? Explain.

2. Discuss the question of character versus conduct in personal matters. Philippa Foot claims, with Aristotle, that a person who has a good character is better than a person who has to control himself or herself. Kant would say the opposite. Explain those viewpoints. Which do you agree with more and why?

3. Bernard Mayo wants us to emulate role models. Can you think of a person—a historical fi gure, a living person, or a fi ctional character—whom you would like to emulate? Explain who and why. What are some of the problems involved with the idea of emulating role models?

4. Kierkegaard believes that being ethical is not the ultimate ideal mode of existence—one must also have religious faith. Explore his viewpoint: What does he think faith can give that ethics cannot? Do you agree? Can we be ethical without faith? Can we have religious faith without ethics? Explain.

5. Explain Nietzsche’s theory of the master morality vs. the slave morality, and his concept of the Overman. What, in your view, are the positive aspects of that theory, and what are the negative—if any?

6. For Sartre, any explanation that defl ects one’s complete responsibility is an example of bad faith. Do you agree? Are there cases where people should not be held accountable for what they have done? or cases where it is legitimate to say, “I had no choice”? Explain.

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7. Levinas is reluctant to include animals as beings with “faces.” Do you agree that ethics can be extended to animals only as a secondary move patterned after ethics toward humans? Or should ethics toward animals be a primary form of  ethics? Can Levinas’s own theory be redesigned to include animals?

Primary Readings and Narratives

The fi rst two Primary Readings are short excerpts from the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, one from Johannes Climacus and one from Either∕Or, Volume II. The third Primary Reading is an excerpt from Jean-Paul Sartre’s lecture “Existential- ism Is a Humanism.” The fourth Primary Reading is an excerpt from an interview with Emmanuel Levinas, conducted by three graduate students, Tamra Wright, Peter Hughes, and Alison Ainley, and published as “The Paradox of Morality: An Interview with Emmanuel Levinas.” The fi fth Primary Reading is an excerpt from Dwight Furrow’s Reviving the Left in which he outlines an Ethic of Care. All four Narratives explore, in one way or another, the existential themes of choice, angst, authenticity, and responsibility. The fi rst is a summary of Jean-Paul Sartre’s clas- sic play No Exit about three souls condemned to live in one another’s company forever, in hell. The second is a summary of the fi lm Groundhog Day , selected to represent Nietzsche’s theory of the Eternal Return of the Same. The third narrative summarizes existential aspects of the fi lm Good Will Hunting . The fourth Narrative is a fi lm summary that takes us to the Old West and issues of racism and the Other: The Searchers.

Primary Reading

Johannes Climacus


Written 1842–1843, fi rst published 1912. Excerpt translated by Nina Rosenstand.

Kierkegaard used to speak through many aliases, and some we are not supposed to take seriously; Johannes Climacus became one of his most serious and personal aliases, and here we read about Johannes’s childhood, which exactly resembles Kierkegaard’s own.

His father was a very strict man, apparently dry and prosaic, but under this coat of coarse weave he hid a glowing imagination which not even his advanced years managed to conceal. When Johannes on occasion would ask permission to go out, he was most often refused; however, on one occasion his father offered, as a form of compensation, to take a walking tour up and down the fl oor. This was at fi rst glance a poor substitute, and yet this turned out to be like the coarse coat: It hid something else entirely. The sug- gestion was accepted, and the decision where to go was left entirely to Johannes. So they


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left by the gate, walked to a nearby castle in the woods, to the beach, or up and down the streets, anywhere Johannes wanted, because for his father nothing was impossible. While they were walking up and down the fl oor, his father would describe everything they saw; they said hello to people passing by, coaches rolled noisily past, drowning out his father’s voice; the fruits of the vendor woman looked more inviting than ever. He related everything so accurately, so vividly; he described so immediately in the most minute detail things that were familiar to Johannes, and whatever Johannes didn’t know he described in such elaborate and educational manner that he, after having walked with his father for half an hour, was just as tired as if he had been outside an entire day. . . . For Johannes it was as if his father was the Good Lord, and he himself was his favorite who was allowed to come up with silly ideas to his heart’s content; for he was never turned down, his father was never perturbed, everything was included and happened to Johannes’s satisfaction.

Primary Reading



Excerpt from Volume II, 1843. Translated by Nina Rosenstand.

In this text, written shortly after Kierkegaard broke up with Regine Olsen, he speaks with the voice of Judge Williams, admonishing a friend who refuses to make choices (about getting married, in particular). In his friend’s words, “Get married, and you’ll regret it. Don’t get married and you’ll regret it.” Williams responds,

The choice itself is decisive for the content of one’s personality. . . . If you imagine a fi rst mate on his ship at the moment when it has to make a turn, then he might say, I can do either this or that. However, if he is not a poor navigator, he will also be aware that the ship is all the while moving ahead at its regular speed, and that he thus only has an in- stant where it is immaterial whether he does one thing or the other. So it is with a human being: Should he forget to take account of the speed, there comes at last a moment when it is no longer a question of an either-or, not because he has chosen, but because he has refrained from choosing—which is the same as saying, because others have chosen for him, because he has lost his own self.

Study Questions

1. Do you approve of Kierkegaard’s father’s teaching technique? Explain. Are there simi- larities between his technique and virtual reality? Are there differences?

2. Whom do you think Kierkegaard identifi es most with: the friend who doesn’t want to choose or Williams? or perhaps both?

3. Compare the second excerpt with Sartre’s theory of the existential choice.

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Primary Reading

Existentialism Is a Humanism

J E A N - P A U L S A R T R E

Lecture, 1946, published in Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre, 1989. Translated by Philip Mairet. Excerpt.

In his famous lecture on existentialism from 1946, Sartre expresses the key concepts of his philosophy: Traditionally, philosophers have expressed the thought that humans have an essence, given to us by our creator, or evolved as part of our human nature. But for Sartre, humans don’t have a “nature,” contrary to all other beings and things in the universe; we exist in the world, with freedom to choose our path, and thus our ex- istence precedes our essence . But that puts us in a state of anguish , from which we would like to escape (in bad faith), but we cannot, because we are condemned to be free .

If one considers an article of manufacture as, for example, a book or a paper-knife—one sees that it has been made by an artisan who had a conception of it; and he has paid at- tention, equally, to the conception of a paper-knife and to the pre-existent technique of production which is a part of that conception and is, at bottom, a formula. Thus the paper- knife is at the same time an article producible in a certain manner and one which, on the other hand, serves a defi nite purpose, for one cannot suppose that a man would produce a paper-knife without knowing what it was for. Let us say, then, of the paper-knife that its essence—that is to say the sum of the formulae and the qualities which made its produc- tion and its defi nition possible—precedes its existence. The presence of such-and-such a paper-knife or book is thus determined before my eyes. Here, then, we are viewing the world from a technical standpoint, and we can say that production precedes existence. . . .

Atheistic existentialism, of which I am a representative, declares with greater consis- tency that if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defi ned by any conception of it. That being is man or, as Heidegger has it, the human reality. What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man fi rst of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world—and defi nes himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him as not defi n- able, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing— as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the fi rst principle of existentialism. And this is what people call its “subjectivity,” using the word as a reproach against us. But what do we mean to say by this, but that man is of a greater dignity than a stone or a table? For we mean to say that man primarily exists—that man is, before all else, something which propels itself towards a future and is aware that it is doing so. Man is, indeed, a project which possesses a subjective life, instead of being a kind of moss, or a fungus or a caulifl ower. Before that projection of the self nothing exists; not even in the heaven of intelligence: man will only attain existence when he is what he purposes to be. Not, however, what he may wish to be. For what we


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usually understand by wishing or willing is a conscious decision taken—much more often than not—after we have made ourselves what we are. I may wish to join a party, to write a book or to marry—but in such a case what is usually called my will is probably a manifesta- tion of a prior and more spontaneous decision. If, however, it is true that existence is prior to essence, man is responsible for what he is. Thus, the fi rst effect of existentialism is that it puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely upon his own shoulders. And, when we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men. The word “subjectivism” is to be understood in two senses, and our adversaries play upon only one of them. Subjectivism means, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual subject and, on the other, that man cannot pass beyond human subjectivity. It is the latter which is the deeper meaning of existentialism. When we say that man chooses himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. To choose between this or that is at the same time to affi rm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all. If, moreover, existence precedes essence and we will to exist at the same time as we fashion our image, that image is valid for all and for the entire epoch in which we fi nd ourselves. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we had supposed, for it concerns mankind as a whole. . . .

This may enable us to understand what is meant by such terms—perhaps a little grandiloquent—as anguish, abandonment and despair. As you will soon see, it is very simple. First, what do we mean by anguish?—The existentialist frankly states that man is in anguish. His meaning is as follows: When a man commits himself to anything, fully re- alising that he is not only choosing what he will be, but is thereby at the same time a leg- islator deciding for the whole of mankind—in such a moment a man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility. There are many, indeed, who show no such anxiety. But we affi rm that they are merely disguising their anguish or are in fl ight from it. Certainly, many people think that in what they are doing they commit no one but themselves to anything: and if you ask them, “What would happen if everyone did so?” they shrug their shoulders and reply, “Everyone does not do so.” But in truth, one ought always to ask oneself what would happen if everyone did as one is doing; nor can one escape from that disturbing thought except by a kind of self- deception. The man who lies in self-excuse, by saying “Everyone will not do it” must be ill at ease in his conscience, for the act of lying implies the universal value which it denies. By its very disguise his anguish reveals itself. . . . When, for instance, a military leader takes upon himself the responsibility for an attack and sends a number of men to their death, he chooses to do it and at bottom he alone chooses. No doubt under a higher command, but its orders, which are more general, require interpretation by him and upon that in- terpretation depends the life of ten, fourteen or twenty men. In making the decision, he cannot but feel a certain anguish. All leaders know that anguish. It does not prevent their acting, on the contrary it is the very condition of their action, for the action presupposes that there is a plurality of possibilities, and in choosing one of these, they realize that it has value only because it is chosen. Now it is anguish of that kind which existentialism describes, and moreover, as we shall see, makes explicit through direct responsibility

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towards other men who are concerned. Far from being a screen which could separate us from action, it is a condition of action itself.

And when we speak of “abandonment”—a favorite word of Heidegger—we only mean to say that God does not exist, and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end. . . . In other words—and this is, I believe, the purport of all that we in France call radicalism—nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, fi nds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of fi nding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infi nite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that “the good” exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted”; and that, for existential- ism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot fi nd anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one’s action by reference to a given and specifi c human nature; in other words, there is no determinism—man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justifi cation or excuse.—We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.

Study Questions

1. What does Sartre mean by saying that we are “condemned to be free”?

2. Explain Sartre’s concept of anguish —what is it, and when are we likely to experience it? Is there a difference between being afraid and feeling anguish?

3. The concept of making a choice is at the core of existentialism. Compare Sartre’s and Kierkegaard’s emphasis on making choices—are they talking about the same process, or are there differences?

4. Explain in what way Sartre’s existentialism is a theory about moral values.

Primary Reading

The Paradox of Morality: An Interview with Emmanuel Levinas

Interview conducted in 1986 by Tamra Wright, Peter Hughes, and Alison Ainley. Excerpt.

Three graduate students from the University of Warwick interviewed Levinas after tak- ing a seminar on one of his books, Totality and Infi nity. In the section on Levinas, you


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read about one of the controversial points in his philosophy, his remarks about the feminine. Here you have a hint of another controversy: Levinas’s statements about the face of another human being as the fundamental ethical experience; does this imply that we can’t have an ethical relationship with a nonhuman—an animal, for instance?

Is the face a simple or a complex phenomenon? Would it be correct to defi ne it as that aspect of a human being which escapes all efforts at comprehension and totalization, or are there other char- acteristics of this phenomenon which must be included in any defi nition or description of the face?

The face is a fundamental event. Among the many modes of approach and diverse ways of relating to being, the action of the face is special and, for this reason, it is very diffi cult to give it an exact phenomenological description. The phenomenology of the face is very often negative.

What seems essential to me is, for example, the manner in which Heidegger under- stood the Zeug —that which comes to hand, the instrument, the thing. He understood it as irreducible prototype. The face is similar in that it is not at all a representation, it is not a given of knowledge, nor is it a thing which comes to hand. It is an irreducible means of access, and it is in ethical terms that it can be spoken of. I have said that in my analysis of the face it is a demand; a demand, not a question. The face is a hand in search of recom- pense, an open hand. That is, it needs something. It is going to ask you for something. I don’t know whether one can say that it is complex or simple. It is, in any case, a new way of speaking of the face.

When I said that the face is authority, that there is authority in the face, this may undoubtedly seem contradictory: it is a request and it is an authority. You have a ques- tion later on in which you ask me how it could be that if there is a commandment in the face, one can do the opposite of what the face demands. The face is not a force. It is an authority. Authority is often without force. Your question seems to be based on the idea that God commands and demands. He is extremely powerful. If you try not doing what he tells you, he will punish you. That is a very recent notion. On the contrary, the fi rst form, the unforgettable form, in my opinion, is that, in the last analysis, he can not do anything at all. He is not a force but an authority. . . .

Is it necessary to have the potential for language in order to be a “face” in the ethical sense? I think that the beginning of language is in the face. In a certain way, in its silence,

it calls you. Your reaction to the face is a response. Not just a response, but a respon- sibility. These two words [ réponse, responsabilité ] are closely related. Language does not begin with the signs that one gives, with words. Language is above all the fact of being addressed . . . which means the saying much more than the said.

In the word “comprehension” we understand the fact of taking [ prendre ] and of com- prehending [ comprendre ], that is, the fact of englobing, of appropriating. There are these elements in all knowledge [ savoir ], all familiarity [ connaissance ], all comprehension; there is always the fact of making something one’s own. But there is something which remains out- side, and that is alterity. Alterity is not at all the fact that there is a difference, that facing me there is someone who has a different nose than mine, different colour eyes, another charac- ter. It is not difference, but alterity. It is alterity, the unencompassable, the transcendent. It is the beginning of transcendence. You are not transcendent by virtue of a certain different trait.

In totalization there is certainly the fact of inclusion, of adding up. Men can be synthesized. Men can easily be treated as objects. We speak to the other who is not en- compassed, who, on the contrary, is the one who offers his face to you.

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The analysis can go further. I’m not saying that it is completed. The idea that is very important to me is frailty, the idea of being in a certain sense much less than a thing. One can kill, annihilate. It is easier to annihilate than to possess the other.

For me, these two starting points are essential: the idea of extreme frailty, of de- mand, that the other is poor. It is worse than weakness, the superlative of weakness. He is so weak that he demands. This, of course, is the beginning of the analysis, because the way in which we behave concretely is different. It is more complex. In particular be- cause, what seems to me very important, is that there are not only two of us in the world. But I think that everything begins as if we were only two. It is important to recognize that the idea of justice always supposes that there is a third. But, initially, in principle, I am concerned about justice because the other has a face. . . .

If animals do not have faces in an ethical sense, do we have obligations towards them? And if so, where do they come from?

It is clear that, without considering animals as human beings, the ethical extends to all living beings. We do not want to make an animal suffer needlessly and so on. But the prototype of this is human ethics. Vegetarianism, for example, arises from the transfer- ence to animals of the idea of suffering. The animal suffers. It is because we, as human, know what suffering is that we can have this obligation.

The widespread thesis that the ethical is biological amounts to saying that, ulti- mately, the human is only the last stage of the evolution of the animal. I would say, on the contrary, that in relation to the animal, the human is a new phenomenon. And that leads me to your question. You ask at what moment one becomes a face. I do not know at what moment the human appears, but what I want to emphasize is that the human breaks with pure being, which is always a persistence in being. This is my principal thesis. A being is something that is attached to being, to its own being. That is Darwin’s idea. The being of animals is a struggle for life. A struggle for life without ethics. It is a question of might. Heidegger says at the beginning of Being and Time that Dasein is a being who in his being is concerned for this being itself. That’s Darwin’s idea: the living being struggles for life. The aim of being is being itself. However, with the appearance of the human—and this is my entire philosophy—there is something more important than my life, and that is the life of the other. That is unreasonable. Man is an unreasonable animal. Most of the time my life is dearer to me, most of the time one looks after oneself. But we cannot admire saintliness. Not the sacred, but saintliness: that is, the person who in his being is more attached to the being of the other than to his own. I believe that it is in saintliness that the human begins; not in the accomplishment of saintliness, but in the value. It is the fi rst value, an undeniable value. Even when someone says something bad about saintliness, it is in the name of saintliness that he says it.

Study Questions

1. What does Levinas mean by saying, “The face is a hand in search of recompense, an open hand. That is, it needs something. It is going to ask you for something”?

2. Do you agree with Levinas that “there is something more important than my life, and that is the life of the other”? Why or why not?

3. Do you agree with Levinas that the prototype for all ethics, including ethical treatment of animals, is human ethics, based on the experience of the human face? Why or why not?


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Primary Reading

A Culture of Care


Excerpt from Reviving the Left , 2009

You read in Box 10.12 that American philosophers Dwight Furrow and Mark Wheeler have collaborated on developing a moral philosophy based on the concept of an ethic of care, based on Levinas’s concept of the face of the Other, with a political vision attached to it. In this excerpt from Furrow’s book Reviving the Left you’ll see how Furrow imagines that an ethic of care can be turned into a liberal, political philosophy. In his view the conservative political outlook on life is fundamentally based on self-reliance and “naked self-interest.” As an alternative he proposes “Rootstock liberalism,” described in an ear- lier chapter in his book: “Rootstock liberalism asserts that happiness and autonomy are rooted in our ability to sustain relationships of care, which must extend to the complex network of relationships on which we depend.”

The force of morality, its motive, comes from the demands of palpable others who insist that I be responsible, who have the authority to make demands on me, and whose vul- nerability and particularity motivate me to respond to their needs. The fact of being in a relationship itself constrains us, generates feelings of obligation and care, a force not unlike the force of gravity, weak yet persistent, easily overcome but constantly renewing its hold over us. These fi elds of force that insist we be responsive to the face of the Other form the basis of culture and give our lives content, meaning, and purpose.

Culture is dependent on these relationships of responsiveness and care because they engender social trust, which is the engine of culture. Without the belief that others are re- sponsible and caring, our vulnerabilities overwhelm us, our sense of ourselves as capable persons evaporates, our ability to act is disrupted by doubt and fear. We typically think of culture as made up of institutions such as the law, religion, or the art world; or as pat- terns of linguistic behavior, shared traditions, or common beliefs. Culture is all of these. But underlying the institutions and patterns of behavior are a network of relationships of responsiveness and care that make the institutions and patterns of behavior possible.

We generate social trust through acts of generosity and care that we extend to oth- ers with no guarantee and often with no expectation they will be returned. A successful culture will fi nd ways of making these acts of generosity and care more readily available, more likely to be welcomed and fruitful. Care, as I am using the term, is both a motive and a practice. To care for someone is to take the good of that person as a motive for my action for her sake. The motive of care aims at benefi ting someone or something directly, not as a byproduct of or an instrument for some other goal, but because the welfare of that entity has become part of one’s own system of value. But care also refers to a practice of sustaining that good, of performing the labor required to preserve what has value. Care is not about having warm feelings or good intentions. It is not fully expressed in merely caring about something. It demands more of us; it demands that we care for something; that we do the labor required to sustain connections and prime the wells of fl ourishing.

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In a democracy, successful political ideologies must refl ect the moral norms of the culture in which they are embedded. Morality inevitably shapes politics because through moral judgment we determine what is fair, cruel, or wasteful and who is wor- thy of respect, who is needy, and what matters most. But American culture does not consistently embody an ethic of care and responsibility as a public philosophy. Thus, for liberalism to succeed as a public philosophy, it must change culture from the ground up. “Rootstock liberalism” names both the foundation of trust and care that society must cultivate and a political consciousness that aims to build such a foundation.

Above I listed a variety of threats to our culture posed by the pervasive infl uence of models of economic effi ciency. These threats included widespread instability in labor markets that weaken relationships, a sense of uselessness and lack of mean- ing that affl ict those discarded by the economic system, high levels of mistrust that prevent the maintenance of fi nancial relationships, the loss of a sense of integrity within the practices of professionals, and attitudes of powerlessness, cynicism, and apathy regarding public institutions, all of which undermine social trust, the crucial foundation of moral value. How does an ethic of care and responsibility help allevi- ate these threats?

The motive and virtue of care mitigates the effects of economic instability by institutionalizing norms that provide a stable basis for trust. An ethic of care does not view persons as cogs in an economic machine and does not defi ne respect for persons solely in terms of their strength of will at overcoming obstacles in life. It recognizes the fragility of people and is thus willing to acknowledge that bad things sometimes happen to good people—failure in life is not necessarily a moral fault. Thus, a person’s worth is not exhausted by her capacity to overcome any obstacle and is certainly not exhausted by her participation in the workplace or success in a career. In a society regulated by norms of care, a meaningful, useful life is one that participates in relationships of care, and this sense of meaning and usefulness is only partly dependent on one’s successful participation in the economy. In a society that values caring capacities, loss of a job or loss of employment status need not lead to a sense of uselessness or meaninglessness.

Furthermore, a society that takes the vulnerability of persons seriously will accept responsibility for people who are victims of economic turmoil. The effi ciencies or ben- efi ts earned as the result of imposing hardships on others (through layoffs, benefi t cuts, etc.) are not the result of bad luck but are the products of conscious decisions to value wealth over persons, to place the value of economic effi ciency above their welfare. Such a decision may be perfectly justifi able because wealth creation is a morally relevant value as well. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility to care for those who are disad- vantaged. Those who benefi t from economic adjustments are both causally and morally responsible for the outcome of those adjustments.

Thus, if an ethic of care were to become more infl uential in our culture, there would be a legitimate expectation, offered without prejudice, that the cost of economic adjust- ments would include compensation or some sort of substantial assistance for those who are too disadvantaged to adapt. Although we have in place programs such as unem- ployment insurance, welfare, retraining programs, and so on that alleviate some of the suffering caused by economic disruption, these are woefully underfunded, poorly ad- ministered, and limited in their capacity to alleviate the misery, sense of uselessness, and loss of meaning that comes from the loss of a job or sharp declines in income.


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These programs are inadequate because their benefi ciaries are treated as losers in a fair competition rather than victims of conscious decisions, and thus the benefi ts are offered grudgingly, as if they are undeserved. Care offered grudgingly, with strings attached, and without a sense of generosity is suspect, because these are indicators that the motives are improper, offered to satisfy a mandate or guilty conscience rather than to help people cope with their vulnerabilities. As a result, our social safety net does little to encourage trusting attitudes on the part of recipients of aid.

Thus, an ethic of care is not only about what social programs we have in place or how many resources we devote to them—it is also about the motives and attitudes with which the care is offered. Government programs are effective only in a culture that supports their aims and shares the motive that gives rise to the program. That is why rootstock liberalism must be a cultural movement if the outcomes of policies are to have their desired effect.

Of course, by the same logic, people who are the benefi ciaries of society’s care are expected to contribute to society and assist in their own care as well. Trust is a product only of generosity that is not abused. Care imposes obligations on the recipients of care. But we can hardly expect the victims of our economic system to take responsibility for their actions if decision makers and other benefi ciaries of the system don’t take respon- sibility for theirs.

In a society in which the norms of care regulate a variety of our activities and the motive of care plays a more dominant role in our conception of moral character, it goes without saying that social trust will grow as well. We will have a higher level of legitimate confi dence in the intentions of others and more reason to assume they are well inten- tioned. Social trust is an effective foil for cynicism and apathy.

Furthermore, a culture of care will stop the dangerous erosion of the integrity of professional practices. Because it insists that we “get the relationships right” and sustain motives of care, a culture of care will regulate external infl uences on the pro- fessions that distort relationships and thus distort incentives. A culture of care resists the dehumanization of the professions and resists the processes that turn humans into commodities, though it does not ignore the benefi ts that productivity and effi ciency gains bring about. A culture of care seeks to discover and preserve the human-rela- tional dimension of life in the midst of technological advance, a form of creative op- position that does not merely oppose but opposes with the intent to preserve what is good about innovation. It resists the inappropriate imperialism of the profi t motive as well as the ennui of corporate or bureaucratic careerism, without sacrifi cing the goods of modernity.

Most important, a culture of care will reorder our value judgments and priorities. Instead of viewing corporate power and military strength as the most morally admirable pursuits, we will come to see the tasks of preserving our environment, raising and edu- cating children, and achieving peace as deserving more praise and resources.

A culture of care promotes the health of the relationships of its members. The pur- suit of self-interest and the assertion of individual rights takes place within these rela- tionships that make them possible. No family or friendship could survive for long if the participants cared only for themselves and ignored the needs of others. The same holds true of a society or culture. Without relationships of care we cannot have a functioning legal, economic, or political system. Rootstock liberalism cultivates this culture of care by building communities that sustain the integrity of cooperative activities.

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Study Questions

1. What does Furrow mean by saying that a culture of care will reorder our value judg- ments and priorities? Do you agree with him that (1) such a reevaluation is necessary, and (2) it will, or should, succeed? Why or why not?

2. Furrow says that we can’t just care about something, we need to care for others. Does that imply that we must care for them the way they would like to be cared for, or should we care for them the way we think is best for them? Is there a difference? Explain.

3. If you are interested in politics, evaluate the ethic of care as a political vision: Is caring for others a specifi c liberal philosophy, as Furrow sees it, or might it also be conservative? Explain why or why not.

4. In Reviving the Left Furrow also uses the example of The Searchers as an illustration of caring. As you can see in the acknowledgments, I credit Furrow with giving me the idea to reinstate the story from a previous edition as an example of Levinas’s theory of the face of the Other. Read the summary of The Searchers below: Do you think it illustrates Furrow’s ethic of care? Why or why not?


Groundhog Day

H A R O L D R A M I S ( D I R E C T O R )

D A N N Y R U B I N A N D H A R O L D R A M I S ( S C R E E N W R I T E R S )

Film (1993), summary.

A spoiler alert: I will be giving away the ending of the fi lm, but since this is a movie classic, chances are that you already know the plot. Maybe you’ve even seen it more than once. Weatherman Phil Conners works for a local Pittsburg television station, and for the fi fth time he is assigned to cover Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney where the ground- hog, Punxsutawney Phil, will emerge to predict the weather for the next six weeks, ac- cording to tradition. Phil Conners doesn’t like the assignment, he doesn’t like his job, and his main manner of communication is sarcasm and cynicism. New producer Rita’s enthusiasm over the project leaves him cold. February 2, Groundhog Day, dawns in Punxsutawney. The alarm wakes Phil up in his bed and breakfast at 6 A.M., with the old sixties tune I got you, Babe . The local radio is blathering about a blizzard coming in. Patchy snow is on the ground. Phil leaves for the event, ignoring or being rude to everyone he meets, including an old high school acquaintance, Ned, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Ned is an insurance agent and im- possible to get rid of, but Phil manages to escape by being nasty. He insults his TV crew, and Rita realizes that he is an unpleasant, self-centered person. After wrapping up

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the broadcast—where groundhog Phil sees his shadow—they leave for Pittsburg, but are caught in the blizzard and have to turn back. The cameraman and Rita go to the Groundhog Day party, but Phil is grumpy and goes to bed. Next morning he wakes up when the alarm plays I got you, Babe , at 6 A.M. Patchy snow on the ground. Same local radio show talking about Groundhog Day and the bliz- zard coming in. And he meets the same people going to the park—the old beggar, Ned— and in the park it is Groundhog Day all over again. He fi nishes the broadcast, they start for Pittsburg, and are again turned back because of the blizzard. And now Phil begins to worry that he may not ever get home—“What if there is no tomorrow?” he asks—“there wasn’t one today!” That night he breaks a pencil and places it on the alarm clock. Next morning, at 6:00, I got you Babe is playing, and the pencil is whole again. Now Phil is in a panic. What’s going on? He tries to tell Rita that for some reason time seems to be in a loop for him, and she thinks he may be sick. So he sees a neurologist, who can fi nd nothing wrong with his brain, and then a psychiatrist, who tells him to come back the following day. That evening he goes drinking and bowling with two local guys, and says, What would you do if you were stuck in a place, and nothing changes, and nothing you do matters? Which is a fairly accurate description of their lives in a small town. But what if there were no tomorrow? Then, says one of the guys, there’d be no consequences, and you could do whatever you what! So that’s what they do—they go driving, hitting mailboxes, and driving on the railroad tracks. Phil ends up in jail—but next morning he’s right back in his B&B room, and I got you Babe is playing. So now Phil enacts the lesson from the night before, and does whatever he wants. He smokes, eats carbs and fatty foods, punches Ned, makes out with a local woman, and none of it has any conse- quences. Over the next many repetitions of the day he steals money from a bank trans- port, dresses up like a Clint Eastwood Western character, and gets Rita to talk about her interests and describe her idea of the “perfect man” so he can (the next many Febuary 2 evenings) quote her back at herself without her realizing that he is playing her. But every time he seems to get close to her, she sees through him, and slaps him. Finally he has had enough, and wants to put an end to it. He kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil and drives to his fi ery death in a stolen truck—only to wake up the next morning in his B&B bed, with the same music playing. He can’t die. Over and over again he tries to kill himself in all kinds of ways, but to no avail. In a quiet moment he sits at the diner where he has been sitting every day since the loop started, and tells Rita he is immortal and all-knowing. He knows everything about everybody, because he has observed them for an endless row of February 2s—and she says, maybe it isn’t a curse? They spend a nice evening together, just as friends, and when he wakes up next morning, back in yet another 2∕2, something has changed in him. He is friendly to the hotel manager, he gives money to the old beggar, he brings coffee to the TV crew, he learns to play the piano from the local piano teacher, he learns how to make ice sculptures, he catches a boy falling out of a tree, he helps people all over town. And when he fi nds the old beggar dying in an alley, he brings him to the hospital—but he can’t keep him alive. And next rerun of 2∕2 he sticks with the old man, feeds him a great meal, and hopes to save his life, but he can’t—the old man dies in the alley, anyway. So during the next day’s Groundhog Day broadcast he speaks into the microphone—saying that if he had to spend every day for the rest of his life in a bleak winter, this is where he’d

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want to be—and for the fi rst time we get a sense that he is being serious. He is beginning to accept that this is his life, an endless return of the same, and he is ready for it. Rita is moved by his speech, but he has no time for her—he has to make his daily rounds, help- ing people in town in their predictable predicaments. That same evening Rita goes to the Groundhog Day party, and is surprised to see Phil playing with the band, a skilled pianist after a multitude of one-day piano lessons. Phil has now made a life for himself out of the repetition of a single day. Everybody in town shows up and has something to thank him for, and he is not being snide or sarcastic—he seems genuinely happy for them. When he is asked to join a charity auction—the ladies bid on the bachelors, who then will be “theirs” for the evening, Rita bids top dollar for him. They have a wonderful evening to- gether where he creates a snow sculpture of her face, sensitive and beautiful. And Phil is now happy in the moment, even if it may not last beyond the night. So next morning he wakes up. It is 6:00, and I got you Babe is playing on the alarm— is this just another 2∕2, and yesterday is lost, again? No, Rita is there with him, and the town is covered in snow, and it is February 3.

Study Questions

1. Explain why the seemingly endless return of the same Groundhog Day fi nally comes to an end. What has changed? And what is the moral of that story?

2. Would it make a moral difference to you if there were no consequences to your actions? Why or why not?

3. Explain what is “Nietzschean” about this fi lm. Also, which features (if any) would you say are not compatible with Nietzsche’s philosophy? Explain.


No Exit

J E A N - P A U L S A R T R E

Play, 1944. Translation by S. Gilbert (1989). Summary and Excerpt. The fi rst presentation of the play was in Paris in May 1944.

For Sartre, there is no life after death, for there is no God to send the soul to one realm or the other. But as a dramatist and a novelist, Sartre played with the idea of hell nevertheless. In the drama No Exit, three characters fi nd themselves in a locked room with no windows: a middle-aged man, Garcin; a young woman, Estelle; and a lesbian woman, Inez. They all know that they are dead and in hell, and they are highly sur- prised that there is no torture chamber—merely a room decorated in bad taste. They don’t know one another, but they are forced to spend an unforeseeable amount of time together in this room, interrupted only occasionally by a prison guard, the “valet.” For a while they can “glimpse” the life of the living, but that soon fades, and all they have is one another. Each pretends to wonder what the others have done to be sent to hell,

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but, as Inez says, they are all “murderers.” Estelle killed her baby, Inez killed her lover’s husband (or at least drove him to his death), and Garcin killed the spirit in his wife by his cruelty to her.

. . . INEZ: Yes, I see. [ A pause. ] Look here! What’s the point of play-acting, trying to throw dust in each other’s eyes? We’re all tarred with the same brush.

ESTELLE [ indignantly ]: How dare you!

INEZ: Yes, we are criminals—murderers—all three of us. We’re in hell, my pets; they never make mistakes, and people aren’t damned for nothing.

ESTELLE: Stop! For heaven’s sake—

INEZ: In hell! Damned souls—that’s us, all three!

ESTELLE: Keep quiet! I forbid you to use such disgusting words.

INEZ: A damned soul—that’s you, my little plaster saint. And ditto our friend there, the noble pacifi st. We’ve had our hour of pleasure, haven’t we? There have been people who burned their lives out for our sakes—and we chuckled over it. So now we have to pay the reckoning.

GARCIN [ raising his fi st ]: Will you keep your mouth shut, damn it!

INEZ [ confronting him fearlessly, but with a look of vast surprise ]: Well, well! [ A pause. ] Ah, I understand now. I know why they’ve put us three together.

GARCIN: I advise you to—to think twice before you say any more.

INEZ: Wait! You’ll see how simple it is. Childishly simple. Obviously there aren’t any physical torments—you agree, don’t you? And yet we’re in hell. And no one else will come here. We’ll stay in this room together, the three of us, for ever and ever. . . . In short, there’s someone absent here, the offi cial torturer.

GARCIN [ sotto voce ]: I’d noticed that.

INEZ: It’s obvious what they’re after—an economy of man-power—or devil-power, if you prefer. The same idea as in the cafeteria, where customers serve themselves.

ESTELLE: Whatever do you mean?

INEZ: I mean that each of us will act as torturer of the two others.

What tortures Garcin most, though, is that he is a deserter. He, who always thought he would live and die bravely, never had a chance to prove himself, he says—he died too soon.

GARCIN [ putting his hands on her shoulders ]: Listen! Each man has an aim in life, a leading motive; that’s so, isn’t it? Well, I didn’t give a damn for wealth, or for love. I aimed at being a real man. A tough, as they say. I staked everything on the same horse. . . . Can one possibly be a coward when one’s deliberately courted danger at every turn? And can one judge a life by a single action?

INEZ: Why not? For thirty years you dreamt you were a hero, and condoned a thousand petty lapses—because a hero, of course, can do no wrong. An easy method, obviously. Then a day came when you were up against it, the red light of real danger—and you took the train to Mexico.

GARCIN: I “dreamt,” you say. It was no dream. When I chose the hardest path, I made my choice deliberately. A man is what he wills himself to be.

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INEZ: Prove it. Prove it was no dream. It’s what one does, and nothing else, that shows the stuff one’s made of.

GARCIN: I died too soon. I wasn’t allowed time to—to do my deeds.

INEZ: One always dies too soon—or too late. And yet one’s whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are—your life, and nothing else.

GARCIN: What a poisonous woman you are! With an answer for everything.

Estelle is beginning to fi nd Garcin attractive (she is used to men fawning over her). Inez is falling in love with Estelle, and Garcin is himself attracted to Estelle but prefers that each of them stay in their own corner rather than hurt each other. But the stage is set, and they can’t help interacting. All three try to manipulate one another; they team up, two against the third one. They constantly scrutinize one another (for in hell you have no eyelids you can close). They need each other for comfort and support, but they have no trust in one another. They realize that there is no need for torture instruments and devils—they are each other’s torturers. The room and the other two people in it are hell for them: Their punishment is spending an eternity with one another in a hostile triangle. In the end Garcin succeeds in opening the locked door to their room, but now all three are reluctant to leave, because for each that would mean the other two had won the dominance game. All three stay to torment each other, forever. On the symbolic level Sartre is—probably—not talking about any real life after death but about the human condition. He is saying we make life a hell for one another, because we are so very good at manipulating one another, and every human relationship, even that between lovers, has at its core a battle for power and dominance. Sartre concludes with one of his most famous lines: “Hell is—other people.”

Study Questions

1. Would you agree with Sartre that “hell is other people”?

2. Do you think Garcin, Estelle, and Inez might apply Sartre’s own principles of existen- tialism to cope with their life in hell? How?


Good Will Hunting

G U S V A N S A N T ( D I R E C T O R )

M A T T D A M O N A N D B E N A F F L E C K ( S C R E E N W R I T E R S )

Film, 1997. Summary.

Harvard math professor Gerald Lambeau challenges his students to prove an advanced theo- rem written on the board in the hallway; the following day someone has proved it. In high


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anticipation, students crowd the auditorium, expecting the math genius to step up, but both they and Lambeau as well as the students are disappointed: Nobody takes credit for the feat. However, we, the audience, know who the genius is—the young janitor Will. We’ve seen him stop, look at the board, ponder the problem, and work it out. And then we’ve seen him after work hours interacting with his friends, playing baseball, going to bars, getting drunk, getting into fi ghts, and eventually being arrested for hitting a police offi cer—a hands-on, violent physical existence that seems light-years away from the cerebral life at Harvard. But when Professor Lambeau adds a more advanced problem to the board, the young janitor is almost caught red-handed. At fi rst, Lambeau thinks he is defacing the board, but as the young man slinks away, the professor realizes that he has solved the problem. Thinking Will is a student who has taken on part-time work at the school, Lambeau sets out to fi nd him. Meanwhile, Will’s life is taking a new direction: In a bar, his friend Chuckie tries to pick up two female college students by pretending to be erudite, and a male college

The fi lm Good Will Hunting (Be Gentlemen Limited Partnership, 1997) shows us that you can be extremely intelligent, and yet have much to learn about life. Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a math- ematical genius, but everything he knows is from books, and he is unwilling to use his math skills to improve his prospects. When the chance presents itself for him to create a future with a woman he is attracted to, Skylar (Minnie Driver), his courage fails him—because who knows if she will reject him? His close friend Chuckie (Ben Affl eck) tries to teach him that he should not shy away from reaching out to an uncertain future.

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student steps in and does his best to expose Chuckie as a fake. But the college student must now deal with Will, who exposes the student’s knowledge as nothing more than sophomoric parroting of textbook material. Will doesn’t understand only math—he shows himself to have a profound knowledge of American social history as well. And as we get to know him better, we realize that his knowledge extends to just about any fi eld of research, and all of it learned through visits to the library, not from any college classes. One of the girls Chuckie tried to impress has noticed Will. Later that evening she comes up to Will, introduces herself, and tells him she has been waiting for him to make a move. Since he hasn’t approached her table and she has to go home, she gives him her phone number. The young woman, Skylar, is in her fi nal year of college and shows no reluctance to go for what she wants. Will, however, has not shown any initiative toward her, even though he likes her, and this becomes one of the pivotal themes in the story. Next morning Lambeau tracks Will down and fi nds him in court, at his arraignment for assault. Will defends himself eloquently, but we hear that he has a rap sheet that includes grand theft auto, mayhem, theft, and physical abuse. And we learn that he has been in and out of foster homes for years. This time there will be no mercy, because the person he assaulted was a cop. But Lambeau steps in and makes a deal with the court: Will is released into his custody with the provision that Will agrees to work with him on math theories and agrees to see a therapist. Working with Lambeau amuses Will, because he truly is a self-taught math genius— far brighter than Lambeau himself, who is a Fields Medal winner. But Will chews up fi ve therapists by running circles around them intellectually and emotionally until they give up. Lambeau, worried that the terms of Will’s release will be violated, fi nds him a fi nal therapist: Lambeau’s old friend from school, the psychologist Sean Maguire. Will, doing what he is good at, sizes Maguire up and fi nds his weak spot: He is still grieving over the loss of his beloved wife, who died of cancer a few years earlier. Even so, Sean Maguire takes Will on, seeing the real person behind the mask of intellectual mastery—a person who is afraid of life, afraid of friendship, love, and commitment, because of the abuse and abandonment he experienced in childhood. Skylar and Will go out on a date, fool around in a novelty store, and eat fast food on what it seems more like a two buddies’ night on the town than a romantic date, and when they kiss, it is on her initiative. Our impression of Will as a smart but somewhat inexperienced human being is enforced during his next session with the psychologist. Sean tells him that he has much learning but no experience and that he is a genius but also a terrifi ed orphan—terrifi ed that someone might get power over him if he opens up too much, and abandon him. Even when Will tells a joke, it is about people and places he has only read about. Does he even date? Has he had sex? Sean whistles the tune “People” (“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world”)—a little comment to Will that his choice of not needing people is the wrong choice. And Will’s dating is certainly in question—he has called Skylar, only to hang up on her before saying anything. Sean calls him on the carpet: Will doesn’t want to ruin their budding relationship by fi nding out that she is not perfect—or by letting her fi nd out that he is not perfect. And Sean tells Will that his deceased wife was not perfect—she would fart—but when you love each other, he says, the imperfections become precious, and the question is not, Is he or she perfect? but, Are we perfect for each other? You’ll never

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fi nd out unless you take the chance, he says. On the other hand, as Will is quick to point out, Sean has not remarried. Is he afraid of engaging in life himself? Will presses Sean: How did he know his wife was the right woman for him? Sean tells the story of the great Red Sox game he chose to miss because he wanted to go on a date with her instead. In other words, the value of what you are willing to give up to be with the one you love will tell you how much you love him or her. Meanwhile, Will takes Skylar out on dates, and they do have sex but never at his place, always at hers, because he doesn’t want her to see his squalid living quarters. He tells her elaborate stories about being one of thirteen brothers and having no privacy. But he does share his three friends with her, including Chuckie, and to his delight she gets along with them. But Chuckie realizes that Will is not being up front with his girl. Old tensions are coming to the surface between Sean and Lambeau: Lambeau wants to recruit Will for a think tank, which would make him both rich and famous, and Sean believes it is more important for Will to fi nd himself and become an authentic human being. We realize that Lambeau is developing an inferiority complex over Will’s genius but that he has always believed that Sean felt intellectually, or at least fi nancially, inferior to him . But Will has no intention of being manipulated by Lambeau. He sends Chuckie in his place to do a tongue-in-cheek job interview while he himself goes on a date with Skylar, who gives him what amounts to an ultimatum: She is leaving for Stanford Uni- versity to go to medical school, and she wants him to come to California with her—she loves him and wants to have a life with him. But what if she changes her mind, he asks? What if he changes his? She: “You’re afraid I won’t love you back!” He: “You don’t want to hear I was abused, I was an orphan, I don’t need help!” And Will leaves her, saying he doesn’t love her. It appears that Will is reaching a breaking point: He insults and alienates Lambeau, making it clear that he doesn’t want his job offer or his help. He refuses a job offer from NSA, saying he doesn’t want to be responsible for his research killing strangers. And when Sean asks him if he has a soul mate, and he refers to dead philosophers such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Kant, Sean confronts him with his analysis: Will sees only the nega- tive possibilities, so he doesn’t dare take chances. Skylar leaves for California, and Will violates his parole, ending his sessions with Lambeau. He goes back to his day job with Chuckie as a construction worker and tells him that it’s all over—with the girl and with the fancy job offers—and thinks Chuckie will approve. But to his surprise, his friend now takes him to task: He has the oppor- tunity to do something better than manual labor, his math genius gives him a winning ticket, and he doesn’t dare cash it in? Will now goes back to Sean and arrives in the middle of a ferocious quarrel between Sean and Lambeau, who accuses Sean of having chosen to be a failure. When Lambeau leaves, Sean shows Will that he has Will’s old fi le documenting the horrible abuse he had suffered at the hands of his father. Sean understands, because he was a victim of an abusive father himself. Finally, Will breaks down in tears, his defenses crumbling. The following day he goes to a prearranged job interview in Cambridge. There is a sense of change in the air—Sean decides to take some time off and go traveling, and while he is packing, Lambeau shows up, and the two old friends patch up their differ- ences. It happens to be Will’s birthday; he is now twenty-one, and his friends spring a big

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surprise on him: They’ve scraped enough money together to give him his own wheels—a beat-up old car, but it has a good engine. So now Will is looking at a future in which his math genius will come to fruition, as a researcher in Cambridge. He has a car, and he has friends—but he also loves a woman on the other side of the continent. What will he do? Will he choose the secure future, or will he follow Sean’s example and choose love, even if he can’t be sure it is going to work out? The lesson Sean tried to teach him was that the value of what you are willing to give up to be with the one you love will tell you how much you love him or her. So what does Will decide? See the movie for yourself and decide if he made the right choice.

Study Questions

1. Explore the similarities between Will and Sean: How do those parallels help Will fi nd himself? Is Will also helping Sean?

2. Compare the relationships between Will and Skylar and between Kierkegaard and his girlfriend Regine. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

3. How do Will and his friends illustrate Kierkegaard’s “three stages of life” theory?

4. How do scenes between Will and Sean display aspects of Sartre’s ideas about choice, authenticity, and bad faith?

5. Explain the title of the fi lm. How might it have an existential meaning? Might it also refer to an element in Kant’s ethics (see Chapter 6)?


The Searchers

J O H N F O R D ( D I R E C T O R )

F R A N K S . N U G E N T ( S C R E E N W R I T E R )

Film, 1956. Based on a novel by Alan le May. Summary.

The Searchers was considered a run-of-the-mill Western when it fi rst came out in 1956, but since then it has acquired a reputation for being perhaps the best Western ever made. It is without a doubt one of director John Ford’s fi nest works, and one reason for its current high standing in American fi lm history is that the actor playing the lead, John Wayne, gives a performance that puts an end to the story that he really wasn’t much of an actor. Another is that its theme is unusually frank for its time period, displaying one of the less romantic, less palatable sides of the Old West: the prevailing racism directed against American Indians. The Searchers appears in a chapter that is otherwise predomi- nantly European in its philosophical themes because of the pivotal scene in the fi lm, which could have been concocted as an illustration of Emmanuel Levinas’s theory of the “face of the Other.” A word of warning: I will be giving away the surprise ending of this fi lm, because it is in one of the fi nal scenes that the “Levinas” moment happens.


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A lone rider approaches a small ranch somewhere in West Texas; it is Ethan Edwards, returning home from the Civil War. He is still in what remains of his Confederate uni- form, even though the war ended years before. The ranch belongs to his brother and his family—Martha, his wife; their teenage daughter, Lucy; a son of about thirteen; the youngest daughter, Debbie; and a grown foster son, Marty, who is one-eighth American Indian. We realize that Ethan has had a hard time adjusting to the fact that the South lost the war, and that he has taken his own time returning home because he has strong feel- ings for Martha—feelings that are reciprocated, in a shy, discreet way. That fi rst evening, Ethan gets reacquainted with his brother’s family, but we also hear him belittle Marty for his Indian heritage and looks: “Fella could have mistook ya for a half-breed!” The following day, a raid on a neighbor’s cattle by Comanche Indians lures Ethan and Marty away from the ranch; a troop of Texas Rangers ask them to come along in pursuit, but Ethan’s brother stays behind to look after his family. This is the last time

In the fi lm The Searchers (Warner Brothers, 1956) Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) ruthlessly pursues a Comanche Indian band that has murdered his brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew, and kidnapped his other niece Debbie. Ethan initially intends to kill the Indians and rescue his niece, but the pursuit lasts years, and Ethan later searches for the band with a different purpose: not to save Debbie but to kill her because he believes she has been “contaminated” living with the Indians. When he fi nds Debbie as a young adult woman, his racism is overwhelmed by sheer human empathy—what Levinas calls “the face of the Other.” In this scene, Ethan fi nds evidence that his niece has been kidnapped and plots revenge.

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Ethan sees his blood relatives alive, except for one. Too late Ethan and Marty realize that they have been tricked into leaving the ranch. In the meantime, the Comanches attack the little ranch and murder Ethan’s brother, Martha, and their son, and take the two girls captive. When Ethan and Marty return, all that’s left is the burning ranch and the three bodies. Realizing that Lucy and Debbie have been abducted, Ethan and Marty join forces with Lucy’s fi ancé, Brad, and take off in pursuit. They soon come upon the Indian camp, where they think they see Lucy in her blue dress, but Ethan fi nds Lucy’s body hidden in a canyon—she has been raped and murdered—and buries her with his bare hands. An Indian warrior took her dress and is now wearing it. Brad goes crazy from grief and rage, and rushes into the Indian camp, where he is promptly killed. Ethan and Marty back off and lose sight of the tribe. Weeks turn into months, and the Comanche band continues to be elusive. Their search takes them all over the Southwest, where they fi nd sporadic clues as to the whereabouts of the Indians and hints that Debbie is still alive. Months turn into years, but Ethan has no intention of giving up. “That’ll be the day,” he says. The two men have one of their most grueling experiences when they come upon a cavalry post after the cavalry has conducted a raid on an Indian village. The soldiers have rescued white captive women and have left a number of Indians dead. Ethan looks on in dread—not at the slaughter of the Indians, but at the blank stares from the white captive women who have lost their minds from years of deprivation, and we sense that he is coming to a resolve about Debbie’s situation. If she is still alive, she is now reaching puberty, and since Indian women marry early, she may have married one of the warriors. The search has changed Ethan; he wants to fi nd the Indian tribe who killed his brother— and Martha—to take revenge, but to Marty’s horror Ethan now also intends to kill Deb- bie, who he believes has been “contaminated” by living with the tribe. (This attitude refl ects the general opinion of the white settler communities in the nineteenth century.) After years of obsessive searching, they fi nally catch up with the band of Comanches led by a chief called Scar, who is quite aware of the two searchers and their quest. Ethan and Marty pretend to be traders and are invited into Chief Scar’s teepee, where his three wives huddle in a corner. One of them gets up, and Ethan and Marty recognize her instantly: It is Debbie, all grown up. They have to control themselves so as not to give themselves away, and they fi nd a pretext to leave camp so they can make plans—but Debbie has also recognized them and follows them. She wants to warn them of an ambush planned by Scar, but she has no intention of coming with them—she needs to get back to “her people,” as she says to Marty. Ethan, true to his word, draws his gun and tries to kill her. Marty steps in to protect her, but at that moment they are attacked by the Indians, and Debbie gets away. Ethan and Marty barely escape with their lives. Severely wounded, Ethan dictates his will, leaving the ranch and his cattle to Marty, “having no blood kin.” “But,” says Marty, “Debbie is your blood kin!” Ethan’s reply—“She’s been living with a buck . . .” (“buck” was a derogatory term for an Indian warrior)—shows us how he has completely written Debbie off as a relative, perhaps even as a human being. Ethan and Marty return to the little homestead community in Texas to regroup but receive information that the Comanche band is camped not too far away, and with the company of Texas Rangers they set out for one last attempt. Marty sneaks into the camp and smuggles Debbie out unseen, to prevent Ethan from killing her, while the rangers

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are preparing an attack on the village. Scar discovers him, and he kills Scar. During the attack, Ethan locates Scar’s tent and, robbed of his revenge for the murders of his brother and Martha, he scalps the dead chief. Now he looks around for Debbie. Debbie is run- ning toward the hills as fast as she can, but Ethan is on horseback; Marty, on foot, tries to intercept Ethan but is summarily brushed aside, and Ethan starts up the hill after Debbie. There is now no way Marty can save her from Ethan. Ethan jumps off his horse, confronting the terrifi ed, cowering young woman. He looks at her face, sees her human- ity and vulnerability, and instead of killing her he scoops her up into his arms, and tells her, “Let’s go home, Debbie.” So Ethan puts her on his horse, and together with Marty they ride back to the home- steads, where Debbie is welcomed and Marty is met by his long-time girlfriend. Nobody seems to notice Ethan. We see him framed by the doorway, with the desert behind him; he is alone, and he turns around, away from civilization, and returns to the wilderness. He has been estranged from civilization too long to belong with other human beings. He has no home anymore. The moment when Ethan sees Debbie for what she is, and his own humanity takes over, has been called “one of the most moving moments in fi lm history” by the French fi lm director Jean-Luc Godard. Here we might also call it a “Levinas moment.”

Study Questions

1. Is Ethan Edwards a racist? Explain.

2. Evaluate the character of Marty, being of one-eighth American Indian heritage. What does he bring to the story?

3. Why is Ethan trying to kill Debbie? What happens to him at the moment he decides against it?

4. Why might that moment be called a “Levinas moment”? Explain, referring to Levinas’s theory of the “face of the Other.”

5. Does Ethan’s acceptance of Debbie mean that he is now no longer the racist that he was (if he ever was a racist)? In other words, do you think he now views all other humans as an “Other” in need?

6. Do Ethan Edwards and Marty illustrate what Furrow calls an Ethic of Care? Does Debbie? Why or why not?

7. A few years later, John Ford made another Western, Two Rode Together, about a white captive woman rescued and returned to the white settlements, a woman who is not welcomed by the bigoted settlers because she is too “contaminated,” and who wishes to return to the Indians. The story is similar to what happened to Cynthia Parker, the white captive woman who was the mother of the great Indian chief Quana Parker. What do you think Ford wanted to say in choosing to tell both stories?

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Chapter Eleven

Case Studies in Virtue

T his chapter presents three classical virtues— courage, compassion, and gratitude — for closer examination. We look at how they have been perceived by some philoso- phers of the past and present and how they may affect our lives. Why these virtues? Why not also loyalty, honesty, honor, and other virtues held dear by various tradi- tions? Just for the simple reason that the topics of courage, compassion, and gratitude have provoked some fascinating contributions to the study of ethics and I would like to share these with you. And there is another simple reason: We have to limit our discussion to just a few samples. However, if you should feel inspired to continue the debate with other virtues as topics, I would wholeheartedly encourage it!

Courage of the Physical and Moral Kind

In 1933, during the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reassured the nation when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Those words helped millions of Americans, not only through the Depression but also through the trying times of World War II, to fi nd courage to carry on, but is it true that fear and courage exclude each other? You’ll remember that the fi rst virtue Aristotle had on his list was courage—the proper “Golden Mean” response to danger. But in the Primary Readings for Chapter 9, you also saw that even Aristotle believed that courage is not synonymous with the absence of fear—that would be foolhardiness. Rather, it is an appropriate response to fear, at the right time, and in the right place, and for the right reason. Just to recap: Aristotle says (see pp. 466–467), “Properly, then, he will be called brave who is fearless in face of a noble death, and of all emer- gencies that involve death; and the emergencies of war are in the highest degree of this kind. Yet at sea also, and in disease; the brave man is fearless. . . . The man, then, who faces and who fears the right things and from the right motive, in the right way and at the right time, and who feels confi dence under the corresponding conditions, is brave.” As you can tell from the excerpt, Aristotle himself does not say that the brave man has no fear but that properly managed fear distinguishes a courageous person. Of course, fear can be paralyzing when we are faced with a diffi cult choice and a dangerous task, but many a brave man or woman has decided to do the courageous thing precisely because of being afraid, not just in spite of being afraid. In many ways, courage has been the exemplary virtue for many philosophers, often in a rather abstract sense, because they were most often speculating about other people’s re- sponse to dangerous situations. Interestingly, we know that Socrates indeed had the

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reputation for being a courageous man in battle when he was a young soldier in the war against Sparta, but courage in battle just isn’t one of Socrates’ primary themes. Perhaps that is in itself signifi cant: Those who are courageous generally don’t talk about it. In this section we explore some of the many faces of courage. Courage in battle may seem like the most obvious example, and perhaps that is where the most extreme forms of courage manifest themselves; but not all defi ant acts under fi re qualify for the term courageous —some are pure instinct, some are done because one fears a worse consequence (such as being tried for desertion), and some are done for the sake of some future advantage (medals, a political career, and so forth). But even outside the battle situation, we of course encounter courageous people—“ordinary people in extraordinary situations,” as they are often described. What is courage, and why is it a virtue? You already know that Kant says a qual- ity such as bravery is not virtuous unless it is backed by a good will (Chapter 6). That means we can’t just declare somebody who is brave a virtuous person—it takes more than simple fearlessness. In Chapter 10 you saw Philippa Foot add her opinion to what makes an admirable character trait a virtue—not the character trait alone, but also the intent behind it.

Stories of Courage

In the fi rst decade of the 2000s, the confl uence of several things led to a renewed debate about courage, especially courage in war. For one thing, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had elevated a number of people to the forefront of the news: Some of them lived through their ordeal, others did not. Private Jessica Lynch, the female prisoner of war who was rescued from her Iraqi captors and lived to set the record straight, was at fi rst hailed as a truly courageous woman warrior who fought until her gun was empty. She was not a combat soldier but had received very basic com- bat training before being sent on a maintenance mission with her crew: They took a wrong turn and were captured by Iraqi soldiers. In the ensuing fi refi ght, most of her group died, and the survivors were taken to a hospital. The other female POW, Lori Piestewa, died from her injuries, but Jessica survived. When the Marines came through the hospital looking for her and announcing that they were American sol- diers, she said the words that have become famous: “I’m an American soldier too!” After she recovered the world heard, from her own mouth, that she never fi red a shot, and her survival was more or less a matter of luck; she even felt it was inap- propriate that she was given the Bronze Star for “meritorious service in combat.” Many people who are in favor of the idea of women in combat pointed out that her courage was as great as any male soldier’s and clear proof that women can function well in battle. Others said that she was an excellent example of why women should not be in combat—not necessarily because they can’t handle it, but because their presence will make their fellow male soldiers focus on their safety rather than on the object of their mission. Returning home, Jessica steered clear of the entire debate about women in combat, went on TV, and declared that what she did was nothing special—that all the glory should go to the Marines who rescued her. Now, was she courageous in battle? We don’t know—there are stories of soldiers doing far more

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heroic things. But was she courageous in standing up and revising her media image, playing down her role? Here we have a good example of two different kinds of cour- age, which often are related— physical and moral courage —and we’ll talk about them in the coming text. Jessica’s war experience probably can’t be taken as either proof or disproof of the appropriateness of women in combat, but she does serve as a good example of an individual who shows courage in claiming that she did nothing extraordinary—which is extraordinary in itself. In Chapter 12 we return to the issue of women in combat. Other stories coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan, have been giving us a pic- ture of what courage is. In Iraq in 2003, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith held off an attack with his machine gun until he was mortally wounded. He posthumously earned the Medal of Honor for organizing a defense that held off a company-sized attack on more than one hundred vulnerable coalition soldiers. Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham received the Medal of Honor posthumously; he died in 2004 in Iraq shielding soldiers in his care from a grenade thrown by an insurgent. And in 2011 President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Dakota Meyer of the Marine Corps for saving thirty-six lives after an ambush in Afghanistan in 2009. During a six-hour fi refi ght with the Taliban, Meyer, himself wounded, provided cover for the troops and picked up both wounded and dead soldiers by going into the “killing zone” fi ve times. President Obama noted that Meyer had been haunted by the lives of four fel- low soldiers than he wasn’t able to save. Since the Medal of Honor was established by George Washington in 1782, more than 3,400 men and women have received the honor, but the medal is not given lightly: At the time of this writing, only three Medals of Honor, reserved for “the Bravest of the Brave,” have been given to soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Meyer became the third American soldier to re- ceive the Medal of Honor in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fi rst Marine. But often courage involves more than heroic actions in battle. Pat Tillman, a safety for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, enrolled in the army after 9∕11, giving up fame and fortune because he wanted to make a difference and fi ght for his country. That act itself is for many a shining example of courage: giving up a rewarding, exciting life to do what one considers the right thing. When Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, the nation heard that he died bravely in battle. That he did, to be sure—any

During the early days of the war in Iraq, in March 2003, a U.S. army maintenance crew took a wrong turn and was ambushed by Iraqi forces. Eleven crew members died, and seven were captured. Private Jessica Lynch, one of the captured, was rescued on April 1 by U.S. special operations forces from the hospital where she had been kept prisoner. The story told by the Pentagon and the media was that she had fought valiantly and had been mistreated during her captivity. Afterward, a different picture emerged: Jessica’s gun had jammed, and she hadn’t fi red any shots—and she had no recollection of what happened at the hospital. In subsequent interviews she graciously refused to be called a hero and pointed out that the real heroes were the soldiers who rescued her.

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volunteer soldier who dies in battle deserves to have that said about him or her—but what the nation wasn’t told immediately was that he died as a result of “friendly fi re,” accidental fi re by another Army Ranger, and that Tillman was awarded the Silver Star on the basis of a concocted battle scenario. In 2010 a documentary premiered, the Tillman Story, depicting Tillman’s family’s quest for the truth. As chance would have it, 2004 was also the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, the American and British invasion of Normandy that turned the tide in World War II and signifi ed the beginning of the end of Hitler’s regime. Not many veterans from what has been called “the Greatest Generation” were left, and their extraordinary experiences will soon be, literally, history; Many books, magazine specials and docu- mentaries were published, focusing on the D-Day stories in particular, so that these stories would not be forgotten by new generations. (In the Narratives section you will fi nd the story of such a real-life individual, slightly fi ctionalized, in one of the episodes from the acclaimed HBO series Band of Brothers. ) One of the books that came out in 2004 focused on the concept of courage in general: John McCain’s Why Courage Matters. For Senator McCain, himself a Vietnam War veteran and a POW, the notion of courage has been “defi ned down”: We tend to confuse courage with fortitude, discipline, righteousness, or virtue; we call athletes courageous when they play a good game, we call people courageous if they just do their job—but real cour- age takes more. What is virtue without courage? he asks. We need courage to keep being virtuous even when our virtue is being tested. In McCain’s words, “We can ad- mire virtue and abhor corruption sincerely, but without courage we are corruptible.” Such courageous people are not just the heroes of famous battles or political struggles but also ordinary people who do their best, following their convictions even to the point of losing everything, including their lives, says McCain. One such person is Angela Dawson, a mother who decided to stay with her children in their neighbor- hood and fi ght the drug dealers—a decision that cost both her and her children their lives; the dealers burned her house down, trapping her and the kids inside. Some of the other examples McCain turns to include the Navajo chief Manuelito; John Lewis, a disciple of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Hannah Senesh, the young Jewish woman who worked to establish a Jewish homeland; and Aung San Suu Kui, the oft-imprisoned political activist in Burma (Myanmar). McCain tells their stories, and lets us see wherein their courage lies. Echoing Aristotle, he emphasizes that courage comes from doing courageous things—but in one important respect McCain and Aristotle differ: Consider the case of Angela Dawson. She certainly had the courage to stand by her convictions and stand up to the drug dealers, but the result was that her home was torched, and she and her kids were burned alive. Did she have courage? It would certainly seem so. But what would Aristotle say? She had too much of it—she was being foolhardy, stubbornly risking her own life and the lives of her children. Aristotle might have said that Dawson misjudged the situation, and because of that (although it is a harsh thing to say) she was not virtuous. So McCain’s theory that courage is the foundation of virtue perhaps needs to take into account Aristotle’s theory of the Golden Mean—we can often discern when someone has too little cour- age, but can we also discern when someone has too much? Aristotle’s criterion was, Did they succeed? Then they were virtuous. And how did they succeed? By using

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their reason in determining when something is too much and when it is too little. These are two different views of what courage means, and it is up to us to decide if they speak to us, if we prefer one over the other, or if we think it would make sense to modify one with aspects of the other.

Physical and Moral Courage

Your adrenaline is pumping, your heart rate is accelerated, you may even experi- ence tunnel vision and a sense that time has slowed down. But it isn’t a movie—it’s you, in a dangerous situation, making split-second decisions. You do what you are

In thirteen episodes the acclaimed HBO television series Band of Brothers follows E Company from D-Day (June 6, 1944) to the end of World War II in Europe (May 1945). One of the frequent themes explored is courage, of both the physical and the moral variety. In the episode summarized in the Narratives section, “Carentan,” you’ll meet this man, Private Albert Blithe (Marc Warren), who must face his paralyzing fear of combat.

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trained to do, perhaps what seems the logical thing to do, or perhaps you just act out of instinct. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll live to talk about it. So now people are calling you a hero—but you didn’t feel that you were doing anything heroic; you just responded to the needs of the moment. Do you recognize the situation? If you do, I salute you. Most of us don’t, but we have all heard of people who, after having done something that looks extraordinarily heroic, deny having done anything special. As a matter of fact, when is the last time you heard such a person stand up afterward and say, “Yeah, I’m a hero!”? So the title of hero, and the admiration of bravery, is usually something that is bestowed upon an individual by others. As we have seen in Chapter 4, we really can’t look into the hearts of people and see their true motivation for the deeds they do. As long as it looks like an unselfi sh act, and involves physical danger, we’re generous with our praise and call it courage. Box 11.1 explores the concept of “hero.” Indeed it may be courage. It could also be luck, or a misinterpretation of motive— in the fi lm Hero (1992) a small-time con artist enters a crashed airplane, and in his quest for loot he manages to save every passenger on board. But disregarding physical danger for the sake of others’ lives, liberty, property, or simply happiness is generally identifi ed as courage. What we shouldn’t forget is that this is only one of many types of courage: the physical kind. Although most of us will perhaps never be in a situation where we can prove to ourselves and the world that we can be physically brave, the

In the chapter text, you have read a discussion about what makes a person courageous. Another aspect of that discussion is the concept of hero itself. Is anyone who displays courage a hero? Does it matter what the end result of a coura- geous deed is, or is it the display of courage that counts? Some critics have pointed out that we are much too quick to pronounce somebody a hero these days—the word has been infl ated. If someone such as Private Lynch has displayed courage but hasn’t done much more than sim- ply survive an ordeal, the media will often slap a “hero” label on the person. But that label is offensive to people who set their standards for heroism higher: Saving the lives of others, with courageous disregard for one’s own safety, is a suitable criterion for some. In that case, Offi cers Todd and Munley (Chapter 4) would be heroes. For others, a true hero is someone who rises above what he or she has been hired or trained

to do and performs an extraordinary deed that helps others—“ordinary people doing extraor- dinary things.” In that case, some of the locals and tourists staying behind to help fi nd survi- vors and victims of the 2004 tsunami would qualify as heroes, as would those civilians who chose to stay behind and help strangers rebuild their lives. The same criteria would apply to the “Fukushima 50” who chose to stay behind and work in the radioactive reactor to try to stop the radioactive leaks after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. Mostly we tend to assume that courage is part of the picture— unless we choose to think that celebrities are heroes just because they are celebrities, or good at their job, like the so-called sports heroes or movie heroes. In your view, is it true that we have infl ated the concept of hero? Can you be heroic without courage? What would be your defi nition of a hero?

Box 11.1 W H A T I S A H E R O ?

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other type of courage works in the shadows, is rarely recognized, and is perhaps so common that most of us don’t even realize when we’ve had a courageous moment of the moral kind: the kind where you stand by your friend when it would be more convenient to distance yourself from him or her; the kind where you don’t allow the powerful clique at school to exclude a newcomer, or someone who is a little different from them; the kind where you stand up to your boss because you know you’re right, even if you may lose that job. A whistleblower such as Erin Brokovich certainly must have had physical courage, but the very thought of blowing the whistle takes moral courage to begin with, the kind of courage Rosa Parks displayed when she, in 1955, refused to give up her seat to a white bus passenger. Moral courage may not result in the spectacular saving of lives, yet we recognize it in particular when it is absent. We may understand, and forgive, friends who failed us when we really needed them, but we rarely forget. And if we have failed a friend in her or his moment of need—if we are decent human beings, that will come back to haunt us even long after our friend has assured us that it was okay, that he or she understands. McCain believes there isn’t much difference between physical and moral courage when push comes to shove, and it may certainly be true that the person who has one kind also is likely to have the other; but even so, there is one big difference that we should take into ac- count: Physical courage is visible, whereas moral courage often is not—it is often lived through without a sense of accomplishment, or reward, or even acknowledgment. In the Primary Readings section, we take a look at McCain’s suggestion for how to teach our kids moral courage, by teaching them to do their “nearest duty.” We don’t even have to search for moral courage in big, publicized media events; there’s plenty of moral spine to go around: Calling the doctor’s offi ce to get the result from a medical test can be a test of courage all by itself, and so can deciding to tell something to your best friend that she ought to know but won’t appreciate your telling her. Mentioning some everyday occurrences that require us to step up to the plate and do things we generally don’t enjoy doing can bring home the immediacy of the moral challenge and remove the notion that courage happens only on faraway battlefi elds or in rare, life-threatening situations. As Ayn Rand enjoyed pointing out (see Chapter 4), if we reserve our moral challenges only for extremely unlikely situations, we get into the habit of thinking that we may not be called upon to act morally on an everyday basis. A controversial topic within the discussion of courage is the topic of suicide. Is a person who decides to commit suicide courageous or a coward? Or perhaps those categories don’t apply at all. In Box 11.2 you’ll fi nd a discussion of the subject. Let us suppose that we now have a better understanding of courage. It involves taking action, or just standing up for something or someone you believe in, when doing so may involve a risk to yourself, your job, your well-being, even your life— instead of remaining silent because it is easier or less risky, or because speaking up might be considered politically incorrect by some. It involves doing the right thing when it is diffi cult, not when it is easy. (In the Narratives section, the fi lm True Grit (2010) illustrates the courage of a young girl determined to bring her father’s mur- derer to justice.) But here we run into a new problem: When do we know whether our “cause” is actually morally righteous? Can we just trust our moral intuition? As you’ll see later in this chapter, Hitler’s right-hand man, Heinrich Himmler, thought

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he was doing the right thing by setting in motion the “Final Solution”—the mass extermination of the German Jews—and he found it a very hard thing to do. Did that make it right? Of course not. In the next section you’ll see what virtue can be added to “courage” to make it less likely that courage is misspent: compassion. In addition,

The issue of suicide has come up on occasion in this book; in Chapter 2 you read about young Werther, who killed himself out of unrequited love, and in Chapter 5 we used suicide as an ex- ample in the debate about John Stuart Mill’s harm principle. Shocking to most of us, statistics show that suicide is the second greatest killer of Ameri- can college students, more than all illnesses and birth defects combined, and takes a back seat only to accidents. So within a college environment, the debate does tend to gravitate toward the sub- ject from time to time, and the issue sometimes comes up: Is committing suicide a courageous act, or is it cowardly? The question assumes there is one clear answer. If we grant that suicide can sometimes be attempted by sane people, then we can apply the issue of virtue and vice, of morally right and wrong (because we wouldn’t use moral condemnation on mentally ill people who don’t have a choice in their actions), and then the ques- tion of courage versus cowardice will have to do with the how and the why. Much of our attitude toward suicide is rooted in religion; Catholicism sees suicide as a deadly sin, condemning a soul to eternal damnation. Buddhism views suicide as a personal failure to deal with one’s karma—a failure that will have negative results in the next life. But some moral systems, whether religious or secular, such as those in Imperial Japan and Imperial Rome, have had great respect for the suicide solution. It is hard to rise above the eth- ics of one’s culture and upbringing in this regard, but if we can for a moment forget the issue of whether or not suicide is plain wrong, we can focus on the courage∕cowardice issue. What if a person allows himself or herself to die, or downright commits suicide so that others

may live? Self-sacrifi ce is usually not even labeled suicide in our language, so that gives us a clue: There is supposedly something selfi sh in suicide. The question is, How much? And of what na- ture? If a person commits “suicide by cop,” by forcing a situation where a police offi cer has no choice but to shoot, the selfi shness extends be- yond that person’s own wants and usually is met by heavy condemnation because it also infl icts misery on others (the police offi cer will face a hearing, might lose his or her badge, and will have to live with killing another person to the end of his or her life). If people kill themselves because they can’t face the shame of some per- sonal situation being disclosed, the world usu- ally pities them for their mental agony but would have admired them more if they had stayed alive to face the music—so there is some sense that suicide is an “easy way out.” Generally, the only type of suicide that is met with a kind of silent acceptance or even admiration in this culture (where euthanasia is illegal in all but two states) is the decision by a terminally ill person to cheat the reaper and take matters into his or her own hands, shortening the time of torment. However, all these cases surely require a defi nite amount of personal guts, just to stand up and go through with it. So is there courage in the suicidal act? Undoubtedly, in the decision and in the act itself—but might there be more bravery in stay- ing alive? That may be a very individual judg- ment call, but our willingness to call the act of suicide both brave and cowardly shows not only that we have mixed feelings about it but also that we may be referring to different aspects of the act: We judge the immediate decision to die, but we also judge the decision to avoid the future.

Box 11.2 I S S U I C I D E C O U R A G E O U S O R C O W A R D L Y ?

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we’ll look at the role of reason and reexamine why emotions may be morally relevant, but why we also need reason to moderate and give direction to the moral feelings.

Compassion: From Hume to Huck Finn

A story that is familiar to most people raised in the Christian tradition is the par- able of the Good Samaritan: A victim of a robbery and an assault is passed over by several so-called upstanding citizens and is fi nally helped by someone who is moved by his plight: the Good Samaritan. You’ll fi nd the story in the Narratives section. It is generally recognized that people are capable of showing compassion—the debate usually centers on why: You’ll remember Thomas Hobbes’s view that humans are by nature self-centered and that compassion is something humans show toward oth- ers in distress because they are afraid the same calamity might happen to them. In other words, when people show sympathy and pity toward one another, either it is to make sure that others will help them if the same thing should happen to them, or else it is a kind of superstition, a warding off of the fate of others. There are scholars who think Hobbes’s viewpoint was fostered by the political unrest of the seventeenth century, which might well have caused a thinker to focus on his own survival and to believe that self-love is the primary driving force. In the eighteenth century, the Age of Reason, two philosophical giants shared a different idea. Both the Scottish philosopher David Hume and the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that humans are naturally compassionate toward one another. As you read in Chapter 4, Hume held that even a selfi sh person will feel benevolence toward strangers whenever his self-interest is not involved. Rousseau claimed that the more we are corrupted by civilization, the more we tend to forget our natural inclination to help others and sympathize with them, because it is not an aber- ration of nature that makes people selfi sh—it is civilization itself. Rousseau certainly agreed that there are people who show compassion only because they are afraid some- thing might happen to them and because they have only their own interests at heart, but that is not a natural thing, he said; it is caused by human culture. If we would seek only the natural capacities in ourselves, we would fi nd the natural virtue of com- passion still intact. The best way to reestablish contact with our original nature is to educate children as freely as possible so that they don’t become infected with the evils of civilization. Philosophers in the Western tradition were not the only ones to speculate about human nature and compassion; in the third century B.C.E. the Chinese philosopher Mencius claimed, as Rousseau would some two thousand years later, that humans are compassionate and benevolent by nature but have been corrupted by the circum- stances of everyday life. In an upcoming section we take a look at the philosophy of Mencius as well as those of Confucius and Lin Yutang.

Scientists Agree: Compassion Is Hardwired

As you have read in Chapter 1 as well as in Chapter 4, new research in neuroscience has revealed that, contrary to what most philosophers have emphasized for over two

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thousand years, it is not natural for the human brain to approach moral problems with logic only and without feelings. For those of you who remember the original Star Trek television and fi lm series, and∕or have seen the “prequel” fi lm Star Trek, that idea—which most people outside the fi eld of philosophy would consider mere com- mon sense—is illustrated beautifully in the character of Mr. Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan character. With his brilliant mind, Spock attempts to control his emo- tional human side and cultivate his Vulcan all-rational heritage, but it doesn’t work that way: Spock fi nds himself to be quite emotional from time to time. One might say that aside from Hume and Rousseau, most philosophers have, for a very long time, attempted to do the same thing: downplay the emotional element under the assump- tion that it will lead to corruption and favoritism, and perhaps even a slide backward to a less refi ned, more animal-like existence based on instincts (which is amusing, considering that some of those same thinkers have claimed that animals have no emotional life). But in several distinct studies released in recent years, neuroscien- tists and other scholars have presented their fi ndings (although there is generally little meta-ethical discussion of whether there was a difference between empathy, sympathy, compassion, or pity—concepts that a philosopher would generally like to keep separate):

1. The Brain Is Wired for Empathy University of California neuroscientist Antonio Damasio pointed out that our brain is wired for empathy, and is generally reluctant to make decisions that are likely to harm other humans; persons with damage to certain brain areas feel less reluctance to make decisions that may ben- efi t the many but will harm a few people. (And, I suppose, such impaired brains might also be less reluctant to make decisions that will benefi t the few but harm the many.)

2. Mirror Neurons Italian researchers as well as University of California neuro- scientist V. F. Ramachandran have found that we have a natural capacity for under- standing what others feel through certain neurons labeled mirror neurons.

3. Thoughts of Harm Cause Negative Emotions Harvard psychologist Joshua Greene has, with brain imaging, shown that thoughts of hurting another human being generate negative emotions in the normal brain.

4. Feeling vs. Thinking Empathy Researchers from University of Southern California have found, through brain scans, that we humans do experience empathy for each other, but in two different ways: We “feel” intuitive empathy for those we know, and whom we fi nd it easy to relate to in some way; however, when we fi nd it harder to relate to people, for whatever reason, we “think” empathy—we engage our rational part of the brain to achieve an understanding of their plight. But either way, most people automatically make an attempt to empathize.

5. Toddlers are Born With an Urge to Help Recent research from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig has shown that toddlers are born with an urge to help. Dr. Michael Tomasello has found that infants from the age of twelve months will try to help adults and other children by pointing to things they have lost, or handing them items they have dropped. Claiming that “Children are altruistic by nature,” Tomasello says this phenomenon happens across cultures, and independent of what

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the children have already been taught. (Another thing is that the toddlers don’t stay altruistic—around the age of four they start thinking about their own advantage!) Similar studies have been conducted by Hillary Kaplan, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico, and primatologist Frans de Waal, whom you’ll remember from Chapter 4.

6. Altruism Feels Good Neuroscientists Jorge Moll and Jordan Grafman have, through brain imaging, found that doing good things for others makes the pleasure area in the brain light up, in the same manner that we respond positively to food and sex. Rather than being a sophisticated override of selfi sh interests, it is an ancient, basic neurological response that may even predate Homo sapiens.

The common conclusion is that, contrary to what most philosophers, psychol- ogists, and biologists thought, the bottom line for our moral universe is empathy, or, as David Hume called it, “fellow-feeling.” We have instant emotional responses that seem to be universal, such as Greene’s brain-imaging experiment in which volunteers were asked to imagine hiding in a cellar in a village with enemy soldiers hunting down all survivors. If a baby cries, should the child be smothered to pro- tect everyone in the cellar? (This scenario was in fact the plot for the fi nal show in the long-running and very successful television series M*A*S*H. ) Everyone agrees that the baby should not be killed—but also that it is wrong to risk the lives of everyone else. Greene’s conclusion is that, in essence, the “emotion” part and the “reason” part of the brain are in confl ict, and that the emotional response (don’t hurt the baby) is far older than the cooler evaluation of saving everyone else. That, says Greene, explains why we’re more willing to help our neighbor than someone starving halfway around the world—our brains evolved in a tribal society where we needed to respond to those around us, and we had no information about dis- tant places. So the consensus is in among the scientists: We have feelings of empathy that engage when we are making moral decisions. Interestingly, for Greene that doesn’t mean that it is always more morally right to go with our emotions rather than with our reason, and the philosopher Peter Singer agrees: We have been tribal people for such a long time, and those responses were appropriate then, but we’re in a differ- ent world now, and we can’t just assume that we can trust our intuition. Sometimes the right thing to do may be to override our moral intuition. We get back to this question below, but for now we can consider it scientifi cally established: The normal human brain is hardwired for empathy. Now we have to see what philosophers make out of that—because even if scientists tell us we’re naturally empathetic, it should come as no surprise that a great many people over the years have turned out either to be so brain-damaged that they have no empathy or to have a considerable talent for over- riding their empathy and causing deliberate harm to others. And, as philosopher Jesse Prinz comments, having empathy doesn’t mean that we are likely to actually act on it; it is entirely possible for a person to feel strong empathy for someone in trouble, and yet walk∕drive right by and hope someone else will help them (we return to Prinz’s theory below). That brings up the philosophical question of when we choose to, in very traditional terms, listen to our heart, and when to listen to our head, and why.

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Philip Hallie: The Case of Le Chambon

We can now see that Rousseau was more right than he could have imagined when he speculated that we have a natural inclination to help others. But was he also right that it is civilization that causes evildoing, or does “civilized” mean “compassionate”? An indirect answer was given years ago by the American philosopher Philip Hallie (1922–1994), whom I once had the privilege of meeting. Hallie was an unusual philosopher, as today’s philosophers go, because he was never afraid to talk about his own feelings and the feelings of others. You cannot understand evil unless you understand how it feels to those who are being victimized, he said, and you cannot understand goodness unless you ask those to whom goodness has been shown. Hav- ing been a U.S. soldier in World War II, Hallie had seen his share of bloodshed and cruelty, including the revelations of the Holocaust death camps. Deeply depressed about the apparent inability to fi ght evil without becoming as violent as one’s enemy, Hallie was profoundly moved by learning about a concrete example of compassion that occurred in the midst of a civilization under the heel of barbarism. In the south- ern part of France, there is a small village called Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, where the population has had a long history of being persecuted for their Huguenot faith. During World War II the people of the village came to the aid of Jewish refugees from all over France in a rescue effort that was matched only by the prodigious ef- forts of Danish citizens to save the Danish Jews by smuggling them across the water to neutral Sweden, and the extraordinary courage and conviction of the Japanese consul-general in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, and his wife, Yukiko, who, against or- ders from their own government, hand-signed six thousand visas in twenty days for Lithuanian Jews, thus allowing them to travel to Japan and escape death at the hands of the Nazis. The people of Le Chambon also saved about six thousand lives (more than twice the number of their own population). The majority were Jewish children whose parents had already gone to the extermination camps. This took place all during the German occupation of France, even when southern France ceased to be a “free zone” governed by French collaborators. As a contrast to the compassion of the French villagers, Hallie points to the sadism displayed during the Nazi reign. The Nazis regularly humiliated their pris- oners; during marches prisoners were not allowed to go to the bathroom and had to perform their physical functions while on the march. Hallie describes this as an “excremental assault” and calls it an example of institutionalized cruelty. Hallie defi nes this type of cruelty as not only physical but also psychological. When a person’s or a people’s self-respect and dignity are attacked on a regular basis, the victims often begin to believe that somehow that cruelty is justifi ed and that they really are no bet- ter than dirt. That is especially true when one population group commits this offense against another group. Thus cruelty becomes a social institution, endorsed by the victimizer and tolerated by the victim. Such instances of institutionalized cruelty can be seen not only in oppressive wartime situations but also in race relations through- out the course of history, in relations between the sexes, and in certain parent-child relationships. The general pattern is a demeaning and belittling of one group by another, so that soon such behavior becomes routine.

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Why does institutionalized cruelty occur? Because one group is more powerful than the other, either in physical strength (it is bigger, is more numerous, or has more weapons) or in economic, educational, or political clout (as when one group can hold property, get an education, and vote, and the other group can’t). Power can even be verbal, as when one group has the monopoly of using slurs against the other. How can it be helped? By changing the power balance, says Hallie. That, of course, is hard—it is hard to acquire the right to vote, to own property, to get an equal edu- cation. It is hard to build up physical strength. And it is hard to reverse the trend of slurs and other insults. Even if all that is achieved, though, the insidious effect of institutionalized cruelty is not over when the cruelty ceases, because it leaves scars. The prisoners who were liberated from Nazi extermination camps were never truly “free” again; they carried their scars with them forever. And just being “kind” to a victim doesn’t help—it only serves as a reminder of how far he or she has sunk. What truly helps is a gesture similar to what the people of Le Chambon did for the Jewish refugees in the face of the Nazi occupation. Hallie heard of Le Chambon and went there to talk to the people; most of them didn’t think they had done anything exceptional. What these people did for the refugees was to show them compassion in the form of hospitality. They showed the refugees that they were equal to the villagers themselves, that they deserved to live in the villagers’ own homes while their escape across the mountains to Switzerland was being planned. This, says Hallie, is the only effective antidote to institutionalized cruelty: hospitality offered as an act of compassion, in a way that makes it clear to the victims that their dignity is intact. The story of Le Chambon has a twist that makes it even more exceptional. How did the rescue effort succeed in an occupied country with Nazi soldiers everywhere? It wasn’t that the villagers were tremendously discreet—no group can hide six thou- sand people who pass through over a fi ve-year period. It was because of the courage of the town minister, André Trocmé, and his masterly organization of the smuggling operation that Nazi curiosity was defl ected for the longest time. Trocmé’s cousin Daniel Trocmé was arrested and executed by the Nazis, but that did not stop the res- cue effort, because the villagers had an ally in a very unlikely person: the Nazi over- seer of the village, Major Julius Schmäling. Schmäling’s task was to keep the peace in the region—meaning, in Hallie’s words, “to keep the French quiet while Germany raped the country and went about its business of trying to conquer the world.” And Schmäling did keep the peace, but not through terror. Instead, he chose to ignore the steady stream of refugees and did not report the incidents to his superiors. One victim of the Nazis whom Schmäling could not save was one of the two doctors of Le Chambon, Le Forestier, who himself was not engaged in the underground move- ment. But one day he gave a ride to two hitchhikers from the underground, who hid their weapons in his Red Cross ambulance. When the ambulance was later searched by Nazi soldiers, the weapons were found and Le Forestier arrested. Intervention by Schmäling led the doctor’s family to believe that he would only be sent to a work camp in Germany as a doctor, but in actual fact the Nazis intercepted the train taking the doctor to Germany. They took him off the train and executed him the following day with about 110 other people. The Trocmés found out the truth from Schmäling

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years after the war and realized that Schmäling, ever since that day, had agonized about the one life he hadn’t been able to save. In his posthumously published book Tales of Good and Evil, Help and Harm (1997), Hallie writes about the complex character of Schmäling: He and his wife tried for the longest time to avoid membership in the Nazi Party, but when it was fi nally imminent, Schmäling joined the army so that he wouldn’t have to be a party member. Originally a schoolteacher in Munich, he had told his students that decency has no price, no market value, but as an overseer he was very effi cient; otherwise he couldn’t have stayed on the job. So that makes him a morally ambiguous man, says Hallie. “He served a government that systematically persecuted defenseless people, but he would not persecute them himself.” And that refusal to persecute the weak did not go unnoticed by the people of Le Chambon: After the liberation of Paris in 1944, when Nazi offi cers were held accountable for their atrocities in trials all over France, Schmäling’s trial was most unusual. As he walked up the aisle toward the judge, everyone rose to pay tribute to this man who had saved so many at the risk of his own life. When asked why he had not reported the Jewish children hiding in the village, he responded, “I could not stand by and watch innocent blood be shed.” Schmäling spent some time in prison in France but later returned to Germany, where he lived in modest circumstances until his death in 1973. (See Box 11.3 for Hallie’s views on one of the major Nazi leaders.) To Hallie, virtue is this: the compassion one shows in reaching out to save others at the risk of one’s own life. It it not necessarily the result of logical thinking—it may

In a celebrated paper the philosopher Jonathan Bennett claims that it is better to be a person guilty of wrongdoing who has compassion than it is to be an innocent person who has no com- passion. An example of the fi rst kind of person is Heinrich Himmler, who, as head of the Nazi SS (an elite guard unit), developed stomach troubles because of what he felt he had to do. The seventeenth-century American Calvinist minister Jonathan Edwards was the other type of person; although he presumably served the needs of his fl ock, he believed everybody de- served to go to hell. Philip Hallie responds to Bennett’s point of view by referring to an in- cident in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The Walrus and the Carpenter lure some little

oysters to take a nice walk with them along the beach. After a while they all sit down on a rock, and the Carpenter and the Walrus begin to eat the oysters. The Walrus feels sorry for them and weeps, but he eats them nevertheless. The Carpenter couldn’t care less about the oysters and is just concerned with eating them. Hallie asks, Are we really supposed to believe that the Walrus is a better creature than the Carpenter because he has sympathy for his victims? The Walrus ate as many oysters as he could stuff into his mouth behind his handkerchief. Likewise, Himmler killed more than 13 million people even though he was “feeling sorry” for them. For Hallie sympathy is no redeeming quality at all if it isn’t accompanied by compassionate action.

Box 11.3 I S I T B E T T E R T O C R Y O V E R Y O U R V I C T I M T H A N N O T T O F E E L S O R R Y ?

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be an act of the heart. For Hallie, there are degrees of moral behavior, though. If you just refrain from doing harm, you are following the negative command “Do not cause harm.” That is commendable, but there is a stronger command, a positive command: “Help others in need.” It is much harder to follow a positive moral rule than a nega- tive one, which just requires you to do nothing. The people of Le Chambon followed the harder path of the positive rule. In your opinion, what did Major Schmäling do? Did he follow the negative rule of no harmdoing, or did he, under the circumstances, also follow a positive rule of actively helping? At the end of this chapter we look at a powerful story of compassion similar to that of Le Chambon, Steven Spielberg’s fi lm Schindler’s List, and in the Primary Readings, you’ll fi nd an excerpt from Hallie’s Tales of Good and Evil, Help and Harm.

Richard Taylor: Compassion Is All You Need

In Chapters 3 through 7 we looked at a number of rules and principles regard- ing the nature of moral goodness and the proper conduct of human beings. Even in this section on virtue, most of the theories we have discussed involve using reason to evaluate the proper moral action. But on several occasions you have encountered a suggestion that, in the last decades of the twentieth cen- tury, seemed extremely controversial but that has gained considerable interest and acceptance lately among philosophers and scientists alike: the notion that reason isn’t everything when it comes to moral evaluations and decisions, that moral feelings are highly important too. You’ll remember Martha Nussbaum’s claim that emotions can have a reasonable side that makes them indispensable to moral decision making (see Chapter 1). In his own way, Philip Hallie consid- ers the virtue of compassion as an emotion that is essential for the moral makeup of a decent human being. However, neither Hallie nor Nussbaum suggests that we can dispense with reason. Such a radical view isn’t held by many, but some thinkers do believe that the way to do the right thing and have virtue is very simple: We do the right thing when our heart is in the right place; moral goodness is simply a gut feeling that we all have, a conscience that speaks without words, an empathy that leads us to reach out in compassion to others. If we don’t have that, we have no morality at all. For Richard Taylor (1919–2003), an Ameri- can philosopher, reason has no role to play in making the right moral choice. Taylor’s theory belongs to a school of thought that says moral principles are, in effect, useless, because we can always fi nd exceptions. But Taylor doesn’t believe the alternative is a moral nihilism. On the contrary—in his book Good and Evil (2000) Taylor says:

Moral principles are nothing but conventions, but they have the real and enormous value to life that conventions in general possess. They help us to get where we want to go. With- out them social life would be impossible, and hence any kind of life that is distinctively human. Their justifi cation is, therefore, a practical one and has nothing to do with moral considerations in the abstract. The moment such a principle ceases to have that value, the moment its application produces more evil than good, then it ceases to have any signifi - cance at all and ought to be scorned.

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So if rational principles aren’t the basis of ethics, then what is? It is the virtue of com- passion, a phenomenon of the heart, not the brain. The eternal focus in ethics on rea- son needs an antidote, and Taylor fi nds it in an analysis of malice versus compassion. Imagine a series of atrocities. A child pins a bug to a tree just to watch it squirm. Boys set fi re to an old cat and delight in its painful death. Soldiers make a baby girl giggle before they shoot her, and force an old man to dig his own grave before they beat him to death. What is so awful about these stories? It is not just that the victim- izers did not live by the categorical imperative, says Taylor (referring to Kant). It is not that they didn’t try to maximize general happiness for everyone involved (refer- ring to utilitarianism). It is not that they were ignorant (Socrates) or didn’t follow the Golden Mean (Aristotle). The horror we feel—and for Taylor it is the same kind of horror in all three cases—stems from the fact that these incidents are simply mali- cious. The acts are horrible not because the consequences are so terrible (the death of one bug, one cat, and two war victims may not have widespread effects) but because the intent was to cause suffering for the sake of someone else’s pleasure or entertain- ment. These are not crimes against reason but crimes against compassion. True moral value, then, lies in compassion, Taylor believes, and he illustrates this with three more tales. A boy comes up to an attic to steal something and rescues some pigeons that are trapped there, despite his father’s strict command to leave the birds alone. When his father returns home he gives the boy a beating. A white sheriff beats up a black rioter during the race riots of the 1960s and then, breaking down in tears, cleans the man up and takes him home, after which he goes and gets drunk. An American soldier who is trapped on an island with a Japanese soldier during World War II fi nally fi nds the Japanese asleep but is not able to kill him. In each of these cases, Taylor says, the people had been taught moral principles that told them to do one thing (“Obey your father”; “Uphold the law through violence”; “Kill the enemy”), but their heart told them something else, and their heart told them right. According to Taylor,

There are no heroes in these stories. . . . Goodness of heart, tenderness toward things that can suffer, and the loving kindness that contradicts all reason and sense of duty and sometimes denies even the urge to life itself that governs us all are seldom heroic. But who can fail to see, in these mixtures of good and evil, the one thing that really does shine like a jewel, by its own light?

In the end we can’t trust our reason, but we can trust our heart; compassion is all we need to be moral human beings, compassion toward all living things. Even people who do the right thing can’t be called moral if they don’t have compassion—in other words, if they don’t have the right intention. This is a much more radical view than Hallie’s because it tells us to disregard our reason. Let us look at how that might work in practice. Taylor assumes that we all have this compassion in us—he appeals to our moral intuition. But what about the boys who set fi re to the cat? Where was their natural compassion? And what about soldiers who kill defenseless civilians? Obviously, not everyone has this compas- sion, not even the people in Taylor’s own examples. In Box 11.4 we take a look at the current phenomenon of dwindling compassion in cyberspace. What can we do about people who have no compassion? Well, we can try to tell them stories about

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malice and compassion, but chances are that they will think it is a great idea to set fi re to a cat and that the boy in the attic should have left the pigeons trapped. How can we appeal to people who are not responsive to compassion? If we were to ask Kant, Mill, Aristotle, or just about any moral thinker, he or she would say we must try to appeal to their reason. If we all had compassion there might not be any need for reason, but as we have seen, not everyone has it, and not everyone has it at the right time, at the right place, and for the right people. Therefore we must have something that might convince people who are lacking in compassion, and this is where reason has to come in. What arguments can we use? We might say, “How would you like it if someone did that to you?” In other words, we might appeal to their logical sense of universalizability and invoke the Golden Rule. Or we might say, “If you do this you will get caught and punished.” In that way we appeal to their sense of logic and

You’ve just seen that neuroscientists and phi- losophers are beginning to agree that humans aren’t nearly as self-centered as we used to think; we are hardwired for empathy for other human beings. But in that case, why are all human soci- eties throughout history burdened with people who prey on other humans? Or who simply ignore the pain of others? For one thing, you saw already in Chapter 1, and now with the ex- amples provided by Philip Hallie, that ordinary people can be put in situations where their em- pathy can be overridden by authorities demand- ing that they follow orders, or telling them that it is normal to put other people through hell. And some people simply have less empathy than others. Besides, in big cities there seems to be less empathy to go around than in smaller communities—perhaps because we’re on emo- tional “overload” in the city, receiving too many signals from our fellow human beings, or be- cause it is easier to be anonymous in the city, and much harder not to step up to the plate and help in a smaller community. Because, as Prinz points out, there is still a difference between feeling empathy and doing something about it. But there is a new phenomenon that is catch- ing the attention of educators: an increase in the

level of callousness in cyberspace, sometimes resulting in cyberbullying. A theory that has surfaced recently is the role of the Internet and cell phones in the lives of young people. Where it was customary a generation ago to spend most of the time with your friends in face-to- face situations (although landline phones were popular for late-night conversations), much social activity today takes place electronically, such as phoning, texting, and posting on Face- book. For most of human history we have been used to looking at the person we are talking to; eye contact has been an important element of communication. And, says the theory, eye con- tact engages the empathy in our brain (you’ll recognize elements of Levinas’s philosophy of the face of the Other here). But what if there is no eye contact? Are we then less inclined to feel compassion for other people? Perhaps. Is it possible that with less eye contact in one’s social life one feels less bound by the rules of behavior, and more inclined to be rude and aggressive, on the phone, while texting, on Facebook—hence cyberbullying? Chapter 13 we take a closer look at the pros and cons of today’s rapidly growing phenomenon of the social media.

Box 11.4 W H E N E M P A T H Y I S A B S E N T : W E L C O M E T O C Y B E R S P A C E

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causality; they can’t possibly get away with any wrongdoing. If those two arguments don’t convince them to do right, we might just lock them up—protect them from themselves, and us from them—until they display enough rationality to understand our arguments. Reason, then, is not a substitute for moral feeling (compassion), but it becomes the necessary argument when the moral feeling is absent or defi cient. A moral theory that leaves room for only compassion is powerless when it comes to enforcing moral values and virtues. There is one more problem with Taylor’s idea that compassion is all we need, and to illustrate it we will turn to Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. In the story Huck, a young boy, helps Jim, a slave, escape from his owner, Miss Watson. British philosopher Jonathan Bennett analyzes this famous literary incident—and Bennett is a thinker who believes in reason as an important part of ethics. He concludes that Huck certainly did the right thing in helping Jim, but it still wasn’t good enough because he did it for the wrong reason. Let’s review what happens in the story. Huck wants to help his friend Jim, but he realizes that by doing so he will be going against the morals of the town, which require him to return stolen property, which is what a runaway slave is. Because nobody has ever told Huck that owning people is wrong, he has no principle of equality to hold up against what Bennett calls the “bad moral- ity” of the nineteenth-century town. So in the end Huck ends up lying to protect Jim without understanding exactly why, and he resolves not to adhere to any moral principles from then on because they are too hard to fi gure out. Bennett’s conclusion is that Huck did the right thing but for the wrong reason; he should have set up a new principle of his own, such as “It is wrong to own people” or merely “Jim is my friend, and one should help one’s friends.” That way Huck’s sympathy for Jim would have been supported by his reason, and he would not have had to give up on moral- ity because it was too puzzling. But let us think beyond Bennett. Mark Twain himself probably wouldn’t have shared Bennett’s conclusion, because for Twain Huck is a hero who does the right thing for the best of reasons—because he has compassion for a fellow human being (a human being whom many educated readers of Twain’s own day and age might have chosen to turn in). Huck has virtue, even if he doesn’t think very well. So Twain and Taylor would be in agreement there. But that doesn’t make Huck’s attitude any better, philosophically speaking, because it is just a stroke of luck that Jim is a good guy and worthy of Huck’s compassion. Suppose the story had featured not the run- away slave Jim but a runaway chain-gang prisoner, Fred the axe murderer? Huck still might have felt compassion for this poor, frightened man and decided to help him go down the river and get rid of his irons. But later that night, Fred might have repaid Huck by killing him and an entire farm family farther down the river to get money and take possession of Huck’s raft. In other words, natural empathy is not enough. What Huck lacked was not compassion but reason to shape it, reason to help him choose when to act and when not to act—because surely not all people are deserving of our compassion to the extent that we should help them escape what society has determined is their rightful punishment. We may sympathize with mass murderers and understand that they had a terrible childhood, but that doesn’t mean we should excuse their actions and help them go free.

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This example serves another purpose too. Not only does it show that we can’t dispense with reason; it also shows that there is something else missing in virtue ethics: If we focus solely on building a good character and developing the right virtues, such as loyalty, compassion, and courage, we still have to decide what to do once we’ve developed the virtues. We may have a wonderfully virtuous character but still be stuck with deciding between several mutually exclusive courses of ac- tion. Huck might ask himself (once he has decided to be loyal to Jim) what exactly is the best way to enact that loyalty: Is it to take Jim up north where nobody can own slaves, or is it to hide him until his owner stops looking for him? Might it be to help him escape with his family, hire him a lawyer, or what? Philosophers who object to virtue theory complain that even if we are virtuous, we still may not have a clue as to what to do in specifi c situations. A possible answer is that virtue ethics need not necessarily stand alone; even Aristotle talks about fi nding the right course for one’s actions, not just for one’s character. But if virtue ethics needs some rules of conduct to be a complete theory, then surely an ethics of conduct would do well to include elements from virtue ethics. In a paper, “Is Empathy Necessary for Moral- ity?, “Jesse Prinz argues that empathy is in danger of becoming morally overrated. Different from concern (a caring approach to living beings as well as things one val- ues) and also different from sympathy (a conscious fellow-feeling), empathy is an emotion that makes us feel, to some extent, what another person feels, a “vicarious emotion.” What used to be called sympathy is frequently called empathy today, and because of the input from neuroscientists we get the impression that you can’t be moral without empathy. Prinz argues that while empathy can be a valuable part of making moral judgments, it is by no means necessary, and may sometimes obscure the real issues involved. Good emotional motivators for moral action are anger and guilt, he says (compare what you read about anger in Chapter 7), but empathy can end up being selective and unfair (the “cuteness effect”), easily manipulated, and prone to in-group biases. And the more we hear about the plight of some strang- ers, the more empathetic we will be, while news stories that are hardly covered leave us with much less empathy. Besides, says Prinz, you can only empathize with individuals, not with large unfortunate groups of people. If we want to make lives better for others, we should use other emotions such as anger, and combine it with the logic of estimating what can be done about it. In other words, Prinz agrees with Bennett that it’s better to use one’s head, plus feelings, than use one’s heart exclu- sively. And even if Martha Nussbaum (see Chapter 1) argues that emotions have their valuable place in ethics, she doesn’t say we should skip our reason and only act on feelings. In the Primary Readings you’ll fi nd an excerpt from Prinz’s paper. We will take another look at the possibility of a combination of theories at the end of this chapter.

Gratitude: Asian Tradition and Western Modernity

The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev tells the following story in his Prose Poems (1883): Once upon a time there was a party in heaven, and the Most High had invited all the virtues. Big and small virtues arrived, and everybody was having a good time, but the

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Most High noticed that two beautiful virtues didn’t seem to know each other, so He went over and introduced them: “Gratitude, meet Charity; Charity, meet Gratitude.” The two virtues were very surprised, because this was their very fi rst encounter since the creation of the world. . . . Gratitude as a virtue usually implies that it is something that is owed to someone. The question is, Are we obliged to feel or show gratitude just because someone expects it, or are there guidelines for when we should express gratitude? For one thing, gratitude is a feeling, like love (see Box 11.5). Either you feel love or you don’t, and nobody can make you feel it if you don’t. (This is some- thing that is known by anyone who has experienced unrequited love.) Similarly, we can’t make people feel grateful to us for something we have done for them; indeed, the more we point out how grateful they should be, the more distant and uncooperative they may become. So perhaps we should not talk about making people feel gratitude; perhaps we should talk instead about encouraging them to show it. Even if you don’t feel grateful for the socks you got for Christmas, it would be virtuous to show gratitude to the person who gave them to you. Not everyone agrees with that viewpoint—I knew a European pedagogue who taught his chil- dren that they never had to say thank you or show gratitude for presents given to them, because they had not asked for those presents and to show gratitude with- out feeling was, in his view, hypocrisy. He may have been right, but life must have been hard for those children when they realized that few others play by the same rules as their father. There are limits to how far you can place yourself and your family outside the mainstream of your culture without getting your nose bloodied from time to time.

When we talk about love as a virtue, we usually are not talking about passionate love. Passion- ate love does involve virtue; the passionate lover should not be self-effacing or too domineering, for example. However, that is not the issue here. The issue is love that we can expect of someone, and we usually can’t expect to receive passion- ate love on demand. During the marriage ritual, when we promise to love and cherish each other, are we promising our partner that we will be passionately in love with him or her forever? Some undoubtedly see it that way, and they often are in for terrible disappointment if the passionate love of their relationship turns out not to last forever. Of course, there are fortunate

couples who remain passionately in love over the years or whose passion develops into even deeper feelings, but that is not something every couple can count on. The promise to love each other is, rather, a promise to show love, to show that you care about the other person’s welfare and happiness and are 100 percent loyal to that person. That we can promise to do, even if passion might not last. So love can be a virtue between people who love each other. The Chris- tian virtue of love does not imply any marital promises but is, rather, an impersonal reverence for other people. Because it also does not in- volve romantic passion, it can be a requirement in an ethical system too.

Box 11.5 L O V E A S A V I R T U E

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We Owe Our Parents Everything: Confucius, Mencius, and Lin Yutang

Most of the topics we have discussed in this book are part of the Western philosophi- cal legacy, but other cultures around the world have their own philosophical tradi- tions and moral values. Here we take a look at the moral philosophies of Confucius and his student Mencius and carry the theme into the twentieth century with the Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang. The subject is gratitude, and the natural recipients of our gratitude are the elderly. Chinese culture was already ancient in 551 B.C.E. when Confucius was born. When he died in 479 B.C.E., his thoughts on the superior man had already changed life and politics in his country, and they were to remain infl uential, even during periods of opposition, until the twentieth century in China. For centuries the com- mon Chinese attitude toward virtue and right conduct had been to ask the advice of the spirits through divination. However, a certain practical vision had by and large replaced that view by the time of Confucius—a realization that human endeavor was more effective than spiritual guidance. The more important questions became What exactly is a good person? and What is the best kind of human endeavor? The questions were important because whoever was best—a “man of virtue”—was con- sidered to be the person best equipped to rule the country. Before Confucius, such a man was presumed to be a nobleman, but Confucius redefi ned the man of virtue, the superior man, as someone who is wise, courageous, and humane; someone who thinks well and acts accordingly; someone who models his behavior after virtuous men of the past; and someone who understands that life is a long learning process. The man of virtue exhibits his humanity by being benevolent, and he seeks not profi t or revenge but righteousness. Right conduct may show itself in rectifying what is wrong or in particular in rectifying names, or titles (in other words, using the proper words to address others, in particular one’s superiors). Studying proper conduct and developing proper character are the same as studying the Way ( Dao, or Tao ). The Way means the way to proper conduct and proper character—wisdom—and only through studying the Way do people become superior. How do we practice the Way? By developing good habits and continual good thinking. The evils to watch out for are, in particular, greed, aggressiveness, pride, and resentment. It truly is possible to become a superior man, according to Confucius, because people can be trans- formed by learning. Once we have learned enough about the Way to recognize it, we will know that there is virtue in moderation. (Like the Greeks, Confucius believed in the virtuous nature of the mean between the extremes of defi ciency and excess; see Box 11.6.) Confucianism is closer to virtue ethics than to an ethics of conduct, although proper conduct is also part of Confucius’s philosophy. For the Confucian philoso- pher, ethics is not a matter of rigid defi nitions of what to do or how to be but a matter of virtues and behaviors that depend on circumstances. To know whether an action is appropriate, you must know how it affects others and whether it might be condu- cive or detrimental to the harmony of society. Virtue, te, consists of both personal character formation and good use of power by a government with good intentions. A person or a government that has achieved te is living according to tao ( dao ) and has

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also attained the basic virtues of jen, li, and yi. As with the term tao, there are no easy Western translations for these concepts: Jen means having a caring attitude toward others, including nonhuman beings; li means understanding and performing rituals correctly, but li is empty without jen (just knowing how to perform ceremonies cor- rectly is meaningless if you don’t have a caring approach); and yi is the understand- ing of what is proper and appropriate, not just in terms of etiquette but also in terms of whether something is reasonable and rational. So to have li (the understanding of rituals) you have to have jen (caring), but you must defi nitely also have yi (reasoned judgment) so you know what rituals are important and why. The classical Chinese society was burdened with many elaborate rituals and ceremonies, and Confucius allowed for one’s critical sense to cut through and determine what was essential and practical and what was not, depending on the circumstances. Confucius’s ideas of the virtuous man and the well-run state became so infl uen- tial that they were adopted as state religion in China for a period of several hundred years (618–907 C.E.) even though Confucius didn’t concern himself with religious questions. He believed that because we know very little about death and any life after death, we must focus our effort on this life and our relationships with other human beings. (Box 11.7 explains some differences between Confucianism and Taoism.) Mencius (371–289 B.C.E.) followed in Confucius’s footsteps but took Confucian- ism one step further. He believed not only that humans can learn to be good but also that they are good from the beginning; they just have been corrupted by life and circumstances. Mencius thought the proper method of fi nding our way back to our

There are some extraordinary parallels be- tween the virtue theory of Confucius and that of Aristotle; both men greatly infl uenced pos- terity, each in his own way. For both thinkers, good habits are the proper way to develop a good character. Both Confucius and Aristo- tle emphasized the link between good think- ing and subsequent action, and both believed that the virtuous human being is one who recognizes the mean, the middle state of mod- eration. But there are also considerable differ- ences. For Confucius, the superior man is one who shuns pride and strives for humility; Ar- istotle would have considered such a man to have insuffi cient self-appreciation. Confucius also seems to have reached out to a more in- clusive moral universe than Aristotle did, and

that has caused some scholars to compare him to Christian thinkers. Confucius is known to have expressed a version of the Golden Rule: Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you, sometimes called the “Silver Rule.” (See Box 4.8.) We don’t fi nd this atti- tude in Aristotle’s writings, because the gen- eral idea of moral equality, which is essential for the Golden Rule, is absent in Aristotle’s code of ethics. Confucius’s superior man also must appreciate cooperation —both between people and between people and Nature—whereas Aristotle stressed the hierarchy of rule. Both men, however, envisioned a state that is run according to the model of a well-functioning family, with the ruler as paterfamilias at the head, deciding what is best for his family.

Box 11.6 C O N F U C I U S A N D A R I S T O T L E

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lost goodness is to look inside ourselves and recapture our nature—our conscience and our intuition. If we pay proper attention to our own good nature, it will grow and take over. Only through ourselves can we fi nd the right way, and that process requires a certain amount of suffering. When we suffer, our character is developed. Mencius doubts that someone who has led an easy life can be truly virtuous. The virtues we are supposed to develop through suffering are independence, excellence, mental alertness, courage, and quietude of spirit. When we have reached such a mental equilibrium, we can help others achieve the same, because benevolence is the prime virtue. The following admonishments are quoted from The Book of Mencius, a collection of sayings probably compiled by his followers. This excerpt shows that for Mencius the development of one’s character is fundamentally the most important moral task. Although one has duties (which is why there are rules for conduct, which one ought to follow), one is not able to fulfi ll those duties without being virtuous —in other words, without having retained one’s moral character:

What is the most important duty? One’s duty towards one’s parents. What is the most important thing to watch over? One’s own character. I have heard of a man who, not having allowed his character to be morally lost, is able to discharge his duties towards his parents; but I have not heard of one morally lost who is able to do so. There are many

The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu was a con- temporary of Confucius. The two men knew each other and disagreed politely on several essential points, the most important one being the usefulness of social action. For Confucius, the superior man must try to effect change, to make life better for others. For Lao-Tzu, that is a useless endeavor, because humans can’t effect changes. Nature is a complex duality of opposite forces working together, the forces of yin and yang, he believed. These forces work according to a pattern that can’t be observed by most humans, and things happen in their own time. The best humans can do is to con- template that fact. This is the only access to the Way, or Tao: By doing nothing, by letting nature take its course, we are not obstructing this course; we are emptying our minds of the constant question What should I do next? And by letting our minds become still and perfectly

empty, we are opening ourselves to the truth of the Way. The Tao of Lao-Tzu is far more mystical than that of Confucius, which is why his ideas have acquired their own label, Taoism (Daoism). Virtue and proper conduct meld to- gether in the concept of “doing nothing,” or rather “not overdoing it,” wu wei, which entails unselfi shness and mental tranquility. Interest- ingly enough, that doesn’t mean that you de- liberately should refrain from doing things like taking a box of matches out of the hands of a three-year-old; indeed, not to do so would be a selfi sh, willful act. You should take the matches away from the child but without congratulating yourself that you’ve saved her life; after all, she may head straight for your medicine cabinet next. Do what you have to do, but don’t think you can make a difference; eventually that will give you peace of mind. That is the hard lesson of Taoism.

Box 11.7 T A O I S M

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duties one should discharge, but the fulfi llment of one’s duty towards one’s parents is the most basic. There are many things one should watch over, but watching over one’s charac- ter is the most basic. . . . Benevolence is the heart of man, and rightness his road. Sad it is indeed when a man gives up the right road instead of following it and allows his heart to stray without enough sense to go after it. When his chickens and dogs stray, he has sense enough to go after them, but not when his heart strays. The sole concern of learning is to go after this strayed heart.

The tradition of Confucius and Mencius continued into twentieth-century China and is noticeable to this day. A modern voice of that tradition is Lin Yutang (1895–1976). Aside from Mao Zedong, Lin Yutang may be the most infl uential of all twentieth-century Chinese writers in the West. He traveled extensively in the United States but never lost touch with his Chinese heritage and values. Even more than by Confucius, Lin Yutang was inspired by Mencius. Lin Yutang himself believed that Western philosophers were too fi xated on the idea of reason and had forgotten what the ancient Greek thinkers saw as the most important element of their philoso- phy: human happiness. In his 1937 book The Importance of Living, he mentions with much modesty that he is uneducated in philosophy. His knowledge of both Chinese and Western philosophy is considerable, however. What is the importance of living? Knowing when to take things seriously and when to laugh at the solemnity of life; being so fortunate and living so long that one can become a serious intellectual and then return to a higher level of simple thinking and simple ways. In several books Lin Yutang attempted to bridge the gap between East and West, especially at a time during the fi rst half of the twentieth century when there wasn’t much understanding between the two worlds. Writing about family values in a transi- tional period during which Chinese values were changing (the later Communist take- over forced a transfer of authority to the people as the feudal system was dissolved), Lin Yutang saw the greatest difference between East and West not in the area of poli- tics or gender issues but in the way we treat our elderly—our parents in particular. Whereas a Western man might think most about helping women and children, a Chinese man would think primarily about helping his parents and other elderly people. That is not because the elderly are thought of as being helpless; it is because they are respected. In the Chinese tradition, the older you are, the more respect you deserve. Lin Yutang describes this in The Importance of Living:

In China, the fi rst question a person asks the other on an offi cial call, after asking about his name and surname, is “What is your glorious age?” If the person replies apologetically that he is twenty-three or twenty-eight, the other party generally comforts him by saying that he still has a glorious future and that one day he may become old. But if the person replies that he is thirty-fi ve or thirty-eight, the other party immediately exclaims with deep respect, “Good luck!”; enthusiasm grows in proportion as the gentleman is able to report a higher and higher age, and if the person is anywhere over fi fty, the inquirer immediately drops his voice in humility and respect.

Just as people under twenty-one in our culture may lie about their age to get into clubs that serve liquor, Chinese young people may pretend to be older to gain

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respect. But in the West there is a point at which most people don’t want to seem older than they are; in fact, they might like to appear younger than they are. The Chinese traditionally want to appear older throughout their lives, because it is to their advantage. Lin Yutang saw the quest for youth in American culture as alien and frightening—and he was writing in the 1930s, when American teens still attempted to dress and act as “adults.” Today, in the exaggerated youth cult that is part of the baby boomer legacy, the phenomenon has become even more extreme. As respect grows with age in the Chinese traditional culture, it seems to diminish with age in the West: Somehow we perceive ourselves and others as less powerful, beautiful, and valuable as we reach the far side of fi fty or even forty. Lin Yutang quotes an Ameri- can grandmother who says that it was the birth of her fi rst grandchild that “hurt,” because it seemed to be a reminder of the loss of youth. (Box 11.8 discusses our attitude toward aging and how it affects retirement.) American parents are afraid to make demands on their children, says Lin Yutang. Parents are afraid of becoming a burden, of meddling in their children’s affairs, of

Lin Yutang (1895–1976), the author of The Importance of Living (1937) and The Wisdom of China and India (1955), may be the modern Chinese thinker best known in the Western world. He worked hard to create a cross-cultural understanding between East and West, but he himself believed that some traditional Eastern values, such as respect for the elderly, are fundamentally different from modern Western values.

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being nosy. But in whose affairs would we meddle if not in the affairs of those who are closest to us? he asks. Parents do have a right to make demands of their children, he says; they do have a right to be cared for by their children. That is because their children owe it to them. We owe a never-ending debt of gratitude to our parents for rais- ing us, for being there when we were teething, for changing those diapers and taking care of us when we were sick, and just for feeding and clothing us. (See Box 11.9 for further views.) Among Chinese who immigrated to the United States, for example,

Lin Yutang chastises the West for its “throw- away” attitude toward the older generation. He praises respect and love for one’s parents and grandparents as virtues that have to be learned. The West, however, has not always discarded its citizens at the onset of old age. In earlier farm- ing communities in particular, elders not only were respected but also were considered an im- portant part of the community because of their usefulness. Perhaps they couldn’t knead bread or plow the fi eld anymore, but they still could look after the children and share their wisdom. In some parts of the Western world, we still can fi nd that type of relationship within a commu- nity. But as most people would agree, it is not the case in the larger cities of the West, where it is not customary for grandparents to live with their children. The general attitude seems to be that showing signs of aging is somehow a fl aw. A British writer once wrote of Americans that they think death is optional—that if you die you must have done something wrong, such as not having taken enough vitamins. It would appear that part of our problem with accepting the aging process is that as West- erners we have developed the attitude that when we stop being productive, we stop being valuable as human beings. When a person retires, that feeling often is reinforced, because the person is all of a sudden excluded from part of his or her habitual environment—the workplace. Especially during the early and middle years of the twentieth century, when people would

stay in their jobs for over forty years, retirement forced a reevaluation of the person’s identity, and all too often the retiree felt that he or she had been reduced in value, had been deemed useless by society. That may be one reason it is not uncommon for people to fall ill and even die a short time after retirement, even if they had initially looked forward to it. There are signs that this trend may change; there is a growing awareness that older people are still people, and because nowadays people usually don’t stay at the same job as long as they did in previous generations they may depend less on their jobs for their sense of identity. Also, many retirees reenter the workforce part-time, either because they want to or, sadly, because they can’t afford not to. The baby boomers are beginning to retire, and they have no intention of going away quietly: second careers await, not just out of fi nancial necessity, but also from personal choice. With potential for longer life spans and a growing understanding that mental powers don’t automatically decline after sixty, the eighties may truly be becoming the “new sixties”— provided that there is some form of health insurance, no devastating pandemics or other major disasters, and that the seniors do their part to stay in shape. Besides, the world of retail is beginning to realize that though it may be sexy to appeal to teens, their buying power doesn’t even come close to the buying power of their grandparents. So the “Gray Gold” may be courted more than we have been used to in the past.

Box 11.8 S E L F - W O R T H A N D R E T I R E M E N T

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the guilt over not being with their parents in China is enormous, even if they have brothers and sisters who can perform the duty in their homeland. According to the Chinese conception of virtue, letting his parents grow old and die without his support is the gravest sin a man can commit. That is true for a woman too, but less so, because it is the duty of the fi rstborn boy to take care of his parents. Whom is the daughter supposed to take care of? Her husband’s parents. Herein lies the secret as to why it is so important for Chinese families to have male offspring— even today, when restrictions call for only one child per family. The state may take care of you in your retirement, but even so, life is not complete without a son to lean on in your old age. The pressure to have male babies is so intense that occasionally female babies are killed at birth so that the parents can try again to have a male child, if the parents haven’t already opted for a prenatal sex test, and an abortion in case the fetus is female, or the birth of a girl is simply kept a secret: a diffi cult choice, since pregnancies are monitored by the state and abortions forced on women who already have one child. One alternative is paying a hefty fi ne for the second child. Another, in a twenty-fi rst-century twist, is to take fertility drugs that increase the chance of twins or triplets. If parents choose to keep a little girl, the response from friends and colleagues is quite different from what it would be if they had a boy. A boy is cause for celebration; a baby girl may prompt friends and colleagues to send cards of condolence to the parents. Despite attempts to revise the policy, it appears that the Chinese government is committed to the one-child-per-family rule for now, but the rule has now been in place for suffi cient time that long-term consequences are emerging: There are simply not enough young girls in China now to “go around” and become sexual partners and wives in the next generation—and a shortage of women may have far-reaching consequences. Already now we hear of female babies being purchased from neighboring countries or downright stolen—and the specter of a culture with a large number of “surplus” young males raises more questions:

For Lin Yutang, the duty to take care of one’s parents is a quintessential feature of Chinese culture; as a legacy of Confucian virtue the- ory, which stresses respect for older people and caring for one’s parents, it is a power- ful cultural tradition even in today’s China. However, the duty to care for aging parents is a near-universal moral rule, except in the less family-oriented lives of many modern city-dwellers. In more traditional cultures it is usually the oldest son who is expected to take care of his parents, as in China, but other traditions exist: The family tradition of the

youngest daughter’s staying unmarried to take care of her mother or her aging parents is, in fact, widespread in several parts of the world. Whether we might call it a new tradition or simply the demands of circumstances, in our society it is quite often the daughter living closest to her aging parents who takes on the task of caring for them; this frequently places a particular strain on such middle-aged female caregivers, since they, in today’s world, also are likely to work full-time outside the home and, in addition, may be in the process of rais- ing teenage children.

Box 11.9 T H E D U T Y T O T A K E C A R E O F O N E ’ S P A R E N T S

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How will these young men cope, and what will the Chinese state do for its bachelor citizens? So far, the system has provided for its elderly citizens. Much to the shame of traditional Chinese, there are now some nursing homes for the elderly in the villages of China, but they are presumably more humane than the “human storage tanks” we have in our Western civilization because the elderly are still part of the community, and the problems of the village are presented to them in their capacity as advisers. In this manner the traditional respect for the older people is maintained, at least on a symbolic level, even though the family patterns have been disrupted.

We Owe Our Parents Nothing: Jane English

A young American philosopher, Jane English (1947–1978), proposes a solution to the constant and very common squabbles between parents and their grown children. It seems rather radical: She suggests that we owe our parents nothing. That idea is not as harsh as it appears, however. English thinks the main problem between grown children and parents is the common parental attitude that their children somehow are indebted to them. This “ debt-metaphor ” can be expressed in a number of ways, such as, “We are paying for your schooling, so you owe it to us to study what we would like you to study”; “We’ve clothed you and fed you, so the least you could do is come home for Thanksgiving”; or “I was in labor with you for thirty-six hours, so you could at least clean up your room once in a while.” The basic formula is “You owe us gratitude and obedience because of what we have done for you.” For English, that attitude undermines all fi lial love, because the obvious answer a kid can give is “I didn’t ask to be born.” And there is not much chance of fruitful communication after that. (As one of my students remarked, a parent can always fi re back with “And you weren’t wanted, either,” but that would surely be the end of any parent-child friendship.) So what should parents do? English said they should realize that there are ap- propriate ways of using the debt-metaphor and that applying it to a parent-child re- lationship is not one of them. An appropriate way to use the debt-metaphor is shown in the following example given by English in her essay “What Do Grown Children Owe Their Parents?”:

New to the neighborhood, Max barely knows his neighbor, Nina, but he asks her if she will take in his mail while he is gone for a month’s vacation. She agrees. If, subsequently, Nina asks Max to do the same for her, it seems that Max has a moral obligation to agree (greater than the one he would have had if Nina had not done the same for him), unless for some reason it would be a burden far out of proportion to the one Nina bore for him.

English labels what Nina does for Max a “favor”—and favors incur debts. But once you have paid your debt—once Max has taken Nina’s mail in—then the debt is discharged, and the matter is over. This is reciprocity, and it means that you must do something of a similar nature for the person you are in debt to. But what if Nina never goes out of town, so Max never has an opportunity to take in her mail and pay off the debt? Then he might mow her lawn, give her rides to work, or walk her

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dog. If she has no lawn or dog and likes to drive to work, then he might fi gure out something else to do for her, and chances are that they might become friends in the process. In that case another type of relationship kicks in, one that no longer is based on a reciprocal system of favors and debts. Instead, the relationship is based on a system of duties relating to friendship. (See Box 11.10 for further discussion.) In friendship, according to English, the debt-metaphor ceases to be appropri- ate, because friends shouldn’t think they owe each other anything. Although debts are discharged when a favor is reciprocated, friendships don’t work that way; just because you do something for your friend who has done something for you doesn’t make the two of you “even.” Friendships aren’t supposed to be “tit for tat,” and if they are, then the people involved aren’t real friends. Friendship means that you are there for each other when needed and that you do things for each other because you like each other, not because you owe each other. The fact that there can be no debts doesn’t mean that there are no obligations, however; on the contrary, friendship car- ries with it the never-ending obligation to be there for each other, at least while the

Many of the problems of dating stem from a dif- ference in attitude, says Jane English. One per- son thinks of the date in terms of a friendship, and the other one sees it as a debt- metaphor situation. Suppose Alfred takes Beatrice out for dinner and a movie, and at the end of the eve- ning Alfred expects “something” in return for his investment. Alfred has chosen to view the situ- ation as a favor-debt situation; he sees Beatrice as being indebted to him. Beatrice, however, is upset, because she viewed the situation as a friendship situation, with no favors and debts. In essence, Beatrice doesn’t owe Alfred a thing, because Alfred’s gesture was not presented as a “quid pro quo” situation to begin with but as an overture to friendship. The situation would have been more complex had Beatrice agreed with Alfred in the beginning that the dinner and movie were to be a “business arrangement” to be “paid off” later in the evening. A survey from some years back showed that, shockingly, a majority of California high school students, females as well as males, feel that dating is in fact a favor-debt situation. In that case, we

must say that if both participants agree, then so be it. There is, however, a good old word for when someone sells physical favors for material goods; that word is prostitution. In such a situa- tion the one who is “bought” becomes merely a means to an end. What can you do if you want to make sure to avoid a favor-debt situation on a date? For one thing, you can insist on going dutch. The two of you probably make the same kind of money these days, so why should one of you pay for the other? Remember, nobody should expect pay- ment for doing someone an unsolicited favor (if the people involved aren’t friends), and nobody should expect payment for doing any kind of favor if the people involved are friends. So either way you shouldn’t expect anything of your date, and you shouldn’t feel pressured by your date to repay anything. Be careful not to abuse this rule, though. One girl commented that “it’s great to be able to be taken to a dinner and a movie and not have to do anything in return!” With that at- titude, she reduces her date to becoming merely the means to an end, and that’s not the idea.

Box 11.10 D A T I N G , D E B T , A N D F R I E N D S H I P

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friendship lasts. It implies a mutual sense of duty toward each other. With friend- ship, instead of reciprocity, there is mutuality. Let us speculate a bit beyond what English herself writes: Suppose you borrow fi fty dollars from a friend, and then you have a falling-out with her. Because there are no debts in a friendship and because obligations last only as long as the friendship does, you don’t have to pay back the money, right? Wrong, because owing money is a true debt in our society and money must be paid back regardless of whether it is owed to friends or strangers. Similarly, you have to fulfi ll your part of a contract, regardless of whether it is with a friend, business partner, or a stranger. Such transac- tions come under the proper use of the debt-metaphor and persist beyond the extent of friendships. (In fact, they often are the cause of the breakup of friendships.) English believes we often fall into the trap of regarding friendship duties as debts. Most couples fi nd themselves saying things like, “We’ve been over to Frank and Claire’s four times now, so we owe them a dinner.” For English, that is a gross misunderstanding of what friendship is all about. You can go visit Claire and Frank



PEANUTS © 1986 Peanuts Worldwide LLC. Dist. by UNIVERSAL UCLICK. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

The philosopher Jane English suggests that parents adopt a conversational tone toward their adult children that avoids laying guilt on the child as a method of persuasion—because the child can always answer back, “I didn’t ask to be born.” Here is a classic Peanuts strip illustrating the issue from an unusual angle: Lucy and Linus are engaged in a discussion about whether we actually ever ask to be born!

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a hundred times, and you still don’t owe them a thing because they aren’t doing you a “favor”; they ask you over because they like you. To most readers, that may seem a trifl e idealistic; after the twentieth dinner, Claire and Frank surely will think some- thing is wrong and won’t ask you over again. But English’s idea is that you will be there if they need you and that you should contribute to the friendship in some way or other —she doesn’t say how much you should contribute or in what way; how you contribute is up to you. English says the relationship between parents and grown children should be modeled after the friendship pattern and not after the debt-metaphor pattern. Par- ents don’t do their children a favor by raising them, and, accordingly, children don’t owe any debt to them. But that doesn’t mean grown children don’t have obligations to their parents—they have the same obligations as they have to their friends. Those obligations are limitless as long as the relationship lasts; they cease when the rela- tionship ends. No reciprocity can be evoked, such as “You fed and clothed me for eighteen years, so I’ll take care of you for the next eighteen but not a minute longer.” Mutuality, however, is expected at all times. What is the basis for a good parent-child relationship, then? Above all, love and friendship. If those are present, all that must be considered are (1) the need of the parents and (2) the ability and resources of the grown child. The parents may be sick and in need, and their son may love them, but he also may be out of work and un- able to help with the medical bills. In that case, helping to pay the bills would not be part of his obligations, but other things would, such as providing cheerful company, taking the trash out, or making other contributions. Suppose the parents need help but there is no friendship between the parents and the child. Then, essentially, the grown child is not obliged to help, especially if the end of the friendship (if in fact it ever existed) was the parents’ choice. One might imagine that this would be the time for the parents to approach their estranged child and ask for a favor in the hope of reestablishing the friendship. English seems to as- sume that all the parents have to do is announce that they are sorry and would like to be friends again—but what if they follow that approach with immediate requests for support? Then their son or daughter might soon get the idea that there is a calculated reason behind this renewal of friendship. (That works both ways, of course; if the son or daughter has left home in anger and later decides that he or she needs help from home, an approach of remorse and offers of renewal of friendship followed by requests for support will look equally suspicious to the parents.) For a solution, we might want to turn to the American philosopher Fred Berger (1937–1986), whose theory we discuss in more detail shortly. In assessing the extent of the gratitude you ought to show others for acts of kindness toward you, Berger says you should look for the motivation. Were those acts of kindness done for your sake? for the doer’s? or both? If done for your sake alone, you should show gratitude; if done for the doer’s own sake, you have no obligation; if done partly for your sake and partly for the doer’s own sake, you should show some gratitude, but there is no need to go overboard. In a similar manner, we might ask why the parents are ap- proaching their grown child (or the children their parents). Is it because of a genuine wish to reestablish contact, is it solely because they want assistance, or is the truth

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somewhere in between? If the approached party can determine the motivation with reasonable accuracy, then he or she can decide how to react. What should parents say if they very much would like their grown child to take a certain course of action but realize that he or she does not owe it to them to do so? Not “You owe us” but something like “We love you, and we think you’d be happier if you did x.” Or, suggests English, “If you love us, you’ll do x.” But is the second example a very good one? To most people, that alternative would set off a tremen- dous guilt trip, because it plays on the notion that if you don’t comply, you don’t love your parents. Few people are able to follow their parents’ advice all the time, no matter how much love and friendship there may be between them. One alternative approach, which was suggested by one of my students, is for the parents to explain the whole situation: “Because of our past experience, we believe it is best for you, but it’s your choice.” Jane English never lived to develop her theory further; she died at the age of thirty-one while on a mountaineering expedition in Switzerland. In her short life she published several other thought-provoking papers, and one might wonder how this bright person might have felt about the same issue had she lived to become a parent of grown children.

Friendship Duties and Gratitude

English supplies some guidelines for how we should consider friendship as a virtue that applies to the relationship between parents and grown children; Lin Yutang believes the virtue that should be applied to such relationships is gratitude. But what about both friendship and gratitude in other types of relationships, such as those between friends, or lovers, or neighbors? How far do our duties of friendship go? Are we obliged to help our friends in every way? to help them cheat on their tax returns? to lie to their spouse about where they were last night? to hide them from the police? to buy them drugs? The answer is, of course, no—even if they would do those things for us. Friendship may be a virtue, but it doesn’t entail giving up one’s other moral standards merely for the sake of friendship; besides, your friend is hardly displaying the virtue of friendship toward you, since by helping him or her you may be considered “aiding and abetting” someone in trouble with the law. A good friend doesn’t ask that of another. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something for your friends when they are in trouble, such as being there for them to talk to or fi nding them an appropriate counselor. (Box 11.11 discusses how the Golden Rule applies to such issues.) A more mundane but equally tricky situation arises when someone does some- thing nice for us that we didn’t ask for and then expects something in return. Jane English states that such “unsolicited favors” do not create any debt, so we don’t have to reciprocate. However, the situation may be more complex than that: The favor extended may be in an emergency in which a person is not capable of requesting help (such as someone picking up a wallet a person has dropped and returning it, or giving someone fi rst aid after an accident). Jane English doesn’t address such issues. And what if a person doing an unsolicited favor for a stranger is truly trying to be

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nice? In that case, doing nothing in return seems rude, even if we didn’t ask for the favor. Here Fred Berger answers that certainly we have an obligation, and that obli- gation is to show gratitude. A simple thank-you, verbal or written, may be all it takes. In some situations the person who did us an unsolicited favor (offered to give us a ride or gave us a present) may insist that we show gratitude and reciprocate by doing business with them, going out with them, or even having sex with them. In that case, Berger says, we have to look at the giver’s intentions: Did he give us something or do us a favor just so that we would be indebted to him? In that case, we don’t owe the person anything, not even gratitude, because he did it for himself, not for us. So how do we know when we owe people gratitude? Certainly we owe it when we have asked them to do us a favor. As far as unsolicited favors go, though, we should express gratitude when we can be reasonably certain that (1) they did it

The Golden Rule has been mentioned several times in this text, and it is certainly one of the most widespread rules of ethics in existence, fi nding expression in religions and moral teach- ings throughout recorded history. But is it always the best solution to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Suppose a friend wants you to put her up for a few weeks. She tells you she has been involved in a hit-and-run accident, and now she wants to hide from the police. You are reluctant to let her stay, but she assures you that she would do the same for you or even that you would want her to do the same for you if you were in trouble. But that may not be the case; you may see the situation in quite a differ- ent light. If you were in trouble you might need a friend, but you might not ask that friend to hide you; chances are you wouldn’t have left the scene of the accident in the fi rst place. (Staying at the scene is, of course, the only ethical course of action—besides, it’s the law.) Your friend’s perception of what she wants done for her is not the same as what you might want a friend to do for you. In everyday life we fi nd many examples of this type of situation: Maria gives Cheryl a bread machine for Christmas because that’s what Maria would like to get. But she didn’t think to fi nd out whether Cheryl might also like one, and

in fact, Cheryl doesn’t like kitchen gifts. Even an episode of the television series The Simpsons has dealt with the phenomenon: Homer Simpson shops for a present for his wife, Marge, and ends up giving her—a bowling ball, because that’s what he wants! Often, such misplaced acts of kindness are caused by a self-centered attitude or a lack of perception, but they also may hap- pen because of a fundamental difference in the approach to life. In her book That’s Not What I Meant, the linguist Deborah Tannen describes a classic situation of misapplied Golden Rule ap- proaches between partners who have different visions of correct behavior (or what Tannen calls different “styles”):

Maxwell wants to be left alone, and Samantha wants attention. So she gives him attention, and he leaves her alone. The adage “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” may be the source of a lot of anguish and misun- derstanding if the doer and the done unto have different styles.

It appears that if we are to act on the Golden Rule, we have to make certain that the others really want to “be done unto.” You may want to revisit Box 4.8 in Chapter 4 for a discussion of “The Platinum Rule.”

Box 11.11 D O E S T H E G O L D E N R U L E A L W A Y S W O R K ?

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for our own sake—because they like and respect us, as Kant would say, as ends in ourselves, not because they viewed us as the means to an end. We also should make certain that (2) they did help us on purpose and didn’t just blunder into the situation. Moreover, we have to ascertain that (3) they did it voluntarily, that no one else forced them to do it. In Berger’s words, gratitude should be a response to benevolence, not benefi ts, and that applies to all relationships, even those between parents and children. We should express gratitude in proportion to the things that are done for our sake. (To be sure, not everything parents do is done for the sake of the child.) If something is done for other reasons, our duty to show gratitude di- minishes proportionately. And, says Berger, when we do show gratitude to people who have done something for us, we show that we appreciate them as intrinsi- cally valuable persons—as ends in themselves and not just as instruments for our well-being. Suppose the people who do things for us like us and respect us but still hope to get something out of being nice to us? You’ll recall that we discussed the issue of selfi shness versus altruism in Chapter 4, and we can apply that lesson here. We shouldn’t disqualify others from deserving our gratitude just because they were hop- ing for some little advantage themselves; it is when we were considered solely a means to an end that our duty to show gratitude disappears. Suppose you have good reason to feel grateful for something someone has done. Let’s assume you are a poor student and your neighbors have seven kids. They cook up a huge dinner every night, and at the end of the month, when you are broke, they always invite you over for dinner. They say, “We have to cook anyway, so come on over.” And you do, month after month. You keep waiting for the moment when the family may need your invaluable assistance with something, but the time never comes. So you keep eating their food and feeling like a moocher. What can you do? Well, you might do the dishes once in a while or help babysit. In other words, you can contribute to the mutuality of a friendship even if you aren’t specifi cally asked to do so. Let’s return to the question How much gratitude should I feel? The answer, says Berger, lies in Aristotle’s theory of virtue: just enough—not too much and not too little. Vague as it is, it is still the guideline most people instinctively use when they try to fi gure out how to respond to an act of kindness. We know that enslaving ourselves for the rest of our natural lives, giving up our fi rstborn, and other such measures would be too much. We also know that being rude and doing or say- ing nothing to show our appreciation is too little. But where exactly lies the right amount? That is, as with all the Aristotelian virtues, a case-by-case matter. Some- times the right amount consists of a thank-you note, a bottle of wine, or a batch of chocolate-chip cookies. Sometimes it is house-sitting for six months, and some- times it is going across country to give someone a helping hand. If we manage to hit the bull’s-eye and fi nd the right response, perhaps Aristotle is right, and we are on the way to becoming virtuous. In the Narratives section, the fi lm Pay It Forward suggests that gratitude should be handed on, as a favor to someone else, who then in turn shows her or his gratitude by doing something for someone else—“paying it forward.”

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How to Receive Gratitude?

One aspect of the question of gratitude rarely touched on by philosophers is a matter that, in everyday life, is almost as important as the questions of when to be grateful and how much gratitude to show, and that is the virtue of gracefully accepting grati- tude. Just as it takes skill to be a good giver, so it takes skill to be a good receiver, regardless of whether we talk about gifts, favors, or reciprocation. What if you are the person who did someone else a favor without expecting anything in return? In other words, you treated that someone as an end in himself or herself, and the mere fact that you were able to help is enough reward for you. But now the other person wants to thank you and do something for you in return. What do you do? Saying you don’t want any thanks may be telling the other person how you feel, but it may not be enough, because the other person may feel he or she needs to reciprocate; so you must be able to sometimes allow the other to do so, with the implicit understanding that it is not going to lead to a game of one-upmanship with returned favors. Some- times a simple “You’re welcome” is enough, and sometimes the proper way to accept gratitude may be to gracefully accept a favor or a gift in return, even if you did not do the original favor to be rewarded. And here Aristotle comes in handy again: Your guideline as to how big a favor you can accept in return for a favor should be the extent of the original favor (“just right”).

Virtue and Conduct: The Option of Soft Universalism

In Chapters 3–7 we explored the most infl uential theories of what has become known as ethics of conduct, and in Chapters 8–11 we have looked at classical and contemporary versions of virtue ethics. The majority of ethicists over the years have perceived their task as defi ning in the simplest terms possible, and with as few rules as possible, a moral theory that would have universal application, one that would be valid in all situations. As we have seen, no theory so far can be said to work equally well in all situations; all theories, when put to the test, show some fl aws or problems. For all its positive elements, ethical relativism allows for a tolerance that objects to nothing, not even crimes against humanity; egoism, though recognizing the right of the individual to look after his or her own interests, fails to recognize that humans may actually be interested in serving the interests of others; utilitarianism, though seeking general happiness for all sentient beings, seems to allow for the few to be used, and even sacrifi ced, for the sake of the many; Kantian deontology wants to do the right thing, but is so focused on duty that it may overlook bad consequences of doing one’s duty—consequences that otherwise could have been avoided. And virtue ethics, which is intended as an alternative to those theories of conduct, hasn’t quite solved the problem of when and how to use one’s reason and rational argumentation in defi ning moral standards, and it hasn’t succeeded in coming up with a theory of action in which the general ideas of virtue can be brought into play in particular situ- ations or in solving disagreements between people who consider themselves virtu- ous. For those who look for a good answer to moral problems, that can be more than discouraging, and some might even decide, like Huck Finn, that moral speculations are too confusing and it’s better just to follow their gut feelings. But that would be

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taking the easy way out, and actually it is not a very satisfying solution. On occasion we all may have to justify an action, and “It seemed like a good idea at the time” is not an adequate answer. Furthermore, we may decide that ethicists haven’t come up with a complete solution to moral problems, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to keep on trying to solve them on an individual basis. Just because the experts haven’t given us all the solutions on a silver platter doesn’t mean we’re exempt from seeking solutions on our own. There are alternative answers. Most of the theories we have looked at originated in time periods when it was as- sumed that humans would someday know all the answers to everything. It also was assumed, from a scientifi c viewpoint, that a simple explanation was better and more pleasing than a complex one. To a great extent that is still true: A theory gains in strength if unnecessary elements are cut away. (This phenomenon is often referred to as Occam’s razor, from the British medieval philosopher William of Occam.) But the late twentieth century’s focus on postmodernism also taught us that simple solutions may not always be available, or even desirable, because there may be many possible ways of looking at each situation. (A case in point is Deborah Tannen’s example of different “styles” of behavior described in Box 11.11.) So we are not focused on seek- ing simple answers to complex issues in ethics any longer. I often hear students remark, Why do all these philosophers have to be so single- minded about everything? Why can’t their theories allow for nuances? It is a good question—but it is a question that is possible only because we have become a culture that allows for nuances and different perspectives. Many theories do, in fact, allow for nuances, but it is unfortunately in the nature of introductory courses that some of those nuances tend to fall by the wayside in the effort to express a theory as clearly, and as briefl y, as possible. Some moral theories are strong and straightforward pre- cisely because they don’t allow for nuances and exceptions, as we have seen in pre- vious chapters. But with the complexity of today’s world, what may serve us best could be a moral approach that assumes the possibility that we can have certain basic values in common and at the same time allows for a relativistic tolerance of other values. We may be looking for what was introduced in Chapter 3 as soft universalism: the theory that deep down, we can agree on certain core values that are based on our common humanity. However, that is not going to be easy, because we have to agree on which values are supposed to be the ones we have in common, and here our dif- ferent cultural upbringing and ethnic diversity may come into play. Some philosophers have been trying for a long time to redesign the traditional theories (such as utilitarianism, deontology, or virtue theory) to make them more logical, more responsive to present-day sensitivities, or more tolerant of exceptions. But we can choose another path: seeking the best advice from a multitude of theo- ries. The approach of Fred Berger to the question of compassion is an example of that approach: He uses both Aristotle’s theory of the mean between extremes and Kant’s theory of ends in themselves to explore the subject of compassion. In other words, he allows for several different theories to be used at the same time, letting them work together to achieve a functional solution. This is a very pragmatic approach, and some might even call it a very American approach, because Americans are (presum- ably) typically interested in whether or not something works.

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Berger’s approach may work if we don’t expect too much. Letting the vast spec- trum of ethical viewpoints and traditions become available as options will certainly be no easy road, primarily because we can’t just decide to take the best elements of all theories and lump them together in the hope that they may work. For one thing, they may well contradict one another; for another, if we choose a theory for its advan- tages, we’re stuck with its disadvantages too. We can’t just decide to add deontology to utilitarianism, for example, and assume that a smooth theory will emerge; we may have doubled our range of solutions, but we have also doubled our problems. It is, however, probably the only solution for a future theory of ethics. We need theories of conduct, and we need theories of virtue, from more than just a few cul- tural groups; besides, most of us already use an approach that combines theories on a day-by-day basis. Sometimes we consider consequences as vitally important (espe- cially in matters of life and death); sometimes we think keeping promises and other obligations is more important than worrying about consequences; sometimes we feel we’re entitled to look after ourselves and our own interests; and sometimes we are focused on developing a good character—based on compassion, courage, or an- other virtue. Sometimes what we really need is to listen to that “little voice,” our moral intuition, which neuroscientists tell us is an innate capacity. Often we do com- bine those views in specifi c situations. But we have to be able to decide when one viewpoint or aspect is more appropriate than another, and we have to try to avoid contradicting ourselves by putting together principles that are in obvious opposi- tion to each other. You can’t claim at the same time that consequences don’t count and that consequences are all-important. What you can claim is that there are times when consequences are supremely important (such as calling and waiting for the ambulance to come for your neighbor who keeled over with a heart attack, even if you have to break your movie date to do that), and at other times a principle may be more important than certain consequences (such as a jury turning in a guilty verdict based on clear evidence, even if it may result in rioting). So despite the reluctance of many ethicists to mix and match moral theories, we do it on an everyday basis, and we can train ourselves to do it better by making sure we don’t just make loopholes for ourselves, but genuinely try to address and evaluate the various aspects of real-life ethics as they arise in real situations: duty theory, consequentialism, virtue ethics, respect for other moral traditions—and, on occasion, some legitimate self-interest (provided that it doesn’t seriously disregard the interests of others). For many ethicists today the answer lies in what is called ethical pluralism, mul- tiple ethical viewpoints coexisting on our planet and within the same culture. At least that was the viewpoint of many before September 11 and other terrorist attacks around the world; some still see ethical pluralism as being the only civilized way for all of us to live together, whereas others have taken a second look at our Western ideals and traditions and found them to be worth supporting and offering to the world as a sensible moral code. Where does soft universalism stand? That depends greatly on what we call ethical pluralism. If it simply means that our culture consists of disparate and mutually exclusive viewpoints—individuals and groups not con- versing, isolating themselves within their group identities, whether they be religious, political, or just based on different ethnic traditions—then soft universalism and

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ethical pluralism have little in common. But if an ethical pluralist can support the idea of a diverse society that wishes to create an environment with mutual respect and interest in sharing the responsibilities and joys of the community, then soft universalism can lend a hand, with its credo that we can show respect for a variety of moral viewpoints, as long as we agree that we can fi nd some common values un- derlying the differences. Because, contrary to ethical relativism, moral subjectivism, and ethical pluralism (sometimes simply lumped together as “moral relativism” by its critics), soft universalism recognizes that there are, or ought to be, basic moral truths such as respect for others and a love of freedom—moral ideals that our nation and the Western civilization in general are based on, even though those ideals have not always been held in equally high regard by everybody (You may want to revisit James Rachels’s Primary Reading text in Chapter 3 for an expression of that viewpoint.). So a soft universalist will be able to profess pride in the traditions and values that promote such a respect for other human beings and an ideal of individual freedom while at the same time recognizing the value of diversity—as long as it is a diversity that accepts the notion of a common ground in shared democratic values. Is that less “tolerant” than ethical relativism? Yes, it is, and I suppose it is one of the philosophi- cal legacies of 9∕11 that the thinker who wants to be at peace with the world and accept diversity is more willing to draw the line at what he or she is willing to accept. In the end, the view of soft universalism is that those common values are founded in our common humanity, in the fact that we live in groups and bond with other human beings but are also competitive individuals within our groups. So the chal- lenge of soft universalism is to provide justifi cation for why certain values are to be considered common ground. It must begin with the recognition that we share a com- mon human moral intuition, a reluctance to cause direct harm. Next, it must set up a system of justifi cation for which moral values should be considered valid at all times (such as the United Nations’ list of human rights, for example), which values should be considered a matter of cultural preference and tradition, and which values should be considered globally unacceptable (such as “Some people are born to be free, and others are born to be slaves” or “People of a different religion ∕race ∕gender should be considered as having no rights”). Given that there are, in these times, schools around the world where young boys learn to hate everything Western and prepare for a life dedicated to destroying Western values and human beings, a system of ethics for the twenty-fi rst century must look for the common ground we share as human be- ings, while balancing on the razor’s edge of respecting others’ traditions and at the same time cherishing and holding on to the best elements of our own. Whether soft universalism can provide genuine solutions to the problems of our highly complex world remains to be seen.

Diversity, Politics, and Common Ground?

It is time to gather a few threads that have been spun at various times in this edition: In Chapter 1 you read about the division experienced by much of the nation in times when we vote about issues with a moral component, and fi nd ourselves divided—the “50-50 Nation” concept. The outcome of such a division is occasionally the assumption

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that people who do not share one’s moral and political views must be ignorant or stupid or willfully evil. That attitude can be found among liberals and conservatives alike, and if we subscribe to that attitude, it entails that people whose views differ drastically (or even moderately) from “ours” essentially have no right to think what they think, because they are by defi nition wrong. We are the reasonable, sensible people, and those who disagree with us must be taught the error of their ways—retrained, perhaps even rehabilitated. They must be taught to see the light. If they resist, they are people of bad faith. But is that really the world of democracy, diversity, and tolerance that most people believe the United States is supposed to exemplify? The belief that one’s own attitude is the enlightened one and that the others just refuse to face the facts can evolve into dogmatism, whether it is from the right or the left. We have focused on diversity in this culture for a couple of decades now: People of different ethnic and racial backgrounds have found a place and changed what we now see as mainstream America. Women have found a place in public life and changed the face of the nation. People of color have found that not only can they run for high offi ce, they can win. People of different sexual orientations have, in many contexts including the U.S. military, been included as part of the mainstream. But some of us tend to forget that diversity is not just a matter of race, ethnicity, and gender but also a matter of convictions. An environment that welcomes diversity must also include moral and political diversity. That means that a traditional, conserva- tive environment must learn to accept that liberal members in its midst are liberal because they believe their own values are good and rational—not just because they are too stupid or narrow-minded or immoral to accept other values. And liberals, likewise, must rise above the notion that a conservative is someone who has not revised, or refuses to revise, his or her traditional opinions about values and politics. They must realize that “conservative” is not a derogatory term, and a conservative is not someone who is ignorant, stupid, or evil, but someone whose choice of values can develop with as much rationality and critical soul-searching as the development of liberal values. We must get to a point where we respect the fact that other people may have different convictions —but we don’t necessarily have to respect those convictions! I am allowed to try to change your view, and you can try to change mine. But in recognizing your right to have a different opinion, and in your recognition of mine, we will live up to the quintessential American attitude, voiced by Patrick Henry in the eighteenth century: “ I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will fi ght to the death for your right to say it. ” And thus we will share the fundamental value of this democracy: That people have a right to think what they want and speak their mind about it, and when decisions have to be made, we will take a vote. Whoever wins gets to determine the policies—and those who didn’t win still have the right to their con- viction and to try to change the course of the future in a democratic way. We don’t all have to agree that late-term abortions should be banned or that same-sex marriage should be allowed. But we should be able to acknowledge that those who don’t agree with us on the issues we care about are, in general, not evil scoundrels but people who also have good will and who also are trying to create the best nation possible— as long as their agenda does not allow deliberate harm of others. So within the setting of a democracy, we all must agree to draw the line somewhere: We don’t want to

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have a thought police, but we can’t allow the enactment of political and moral views that entail some people being less than persons. The core value of respect for others’ humanity and human dignity is the bottom line. In Chapter 3, I speculated that the issue of fi nding common ground in our American culture might have a great deal to do with whether we perceive an out- side threat, or whether we choose to focus on internal differences. Suppose we look at the issue in light of the previous discussion about soft universalism. How do we distinguish this proposed moral and political diversity from moral relativism? Precisely through the realization that we must choose and agree on some core val- ues. We shouldn’t ask for tolerance of all political and moral views. Some views seem offensive, or ludicrous, to me, and I will not hesitate to say so if someone asks me. But I am suggesting giving people the benefi t of the assumption that they, too, make rational decisions based on their worldview, and that is what soft universalism entails: a respect for a diversity that respects our common humanity.

Study Questions

1. Was American POW Jessica Lynch a courageous soldier? Explain. Do you think John McCain would call her courageous? Defi ne McCain’s concept of courage. Do you agree with him?

2. Should we trust our moral intuition, or should we listen to our voice of reason? Explain your position with concrete scenarios.

3. What does Philip Hallie mean by negative and positive commands? Explain. Do you agree with him that positive commands are harder to live up to than negative commands?

4. Evaluate Richard Taylor’s view that morality is a matter not of rational principles but of having your heart in the right place. Explore the pros and cons of such a view.

5. Evaluate the respect for the elderly as expressed in the philosophies of Confucius, Mencius, and Lin Yutang. Are such values completely alien to Western culture? Do you think modern Western culture would be improved by incorporating such ideas? Why or why not?

6. Contrast the conclusions of Jane English and Lin Yutang concerning the parent–grown child relationship.

7. Discuss the issue of dating: Is it a favor-debt or a friendship situation? Is there a way of resolving the problem of different expectations for dating partners in the twenty-fi rst century?

Primary Readings and Narratives

The fi rst Primary Reading is an excerpt from John McCain’s Why Courage Matters; the second is an excerpt from Philip Hallie’s Tales of Good and Evil, Help and Harm. The third Primary Reading is an excerpt from Jesse Prinz’s paper, “Is Empathy Necessary for Morality?” The fourth Reading, an excerpt from Lin Yutang’s essay “On Growing

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Old Gracefully,” discusses traditional ideas of gratitude within the family; the sum- maries of the fi lms Eat Drink Man Woman and Pay It Forward illustrate how that vir- tue can be practiced in modern life. Before those two summaries, we have summaries of two other fi lms illustrating the virtue of courage: an episode from the television series Band of Brothers, “Carentan,” and the fi lm True Grit. To illustrate the virtue of compassion, praised as the true universal virtue by Western as well as non-Western thinkers, I have chosen the parable of the Good Samaritan and the fi lm Schindler’s List. These stories explore not only when one should show compassion but also whom one should show compassion toward—in other words, who counts as a member of one’s moral universe.

Primary Reading

Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life

J O H N M c C A I N

Excerpt, 2004.

In this excerpt Senator John McCain suggests that we teach our children about moral courage by teaching them to “do their nearest duty.” McCain didn’t invent that notion, nor does he claim to. He cites the Unitarian social reformer James Freeman Clarke, who in his turn cited Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whom you’ll remember from Chapter 2. For Goethe, one’s nearest duty means focusing on one’s personal obliga- tions: “Let each man wheel with steady sway, Round the task that rules the day, And do his best.”

First we must answer the question “So what?” What do we need courage for anymore? Not to quiet our anxieties caused by September 11. A sense of proportion and a little righteous anger ought to suffi ce for that job. So what do we need it for?

We need it because without courage all virtue is fragile: admired, sought, professed, but held cheaply and surrendered without a fi ght. Courage is what Winston Churchill called “the fi rst of human qualities . . . because it guarantees all the others.” That’s what we mean by the courage of convictions. Not that our convictions possess an innate cour- age, but that if we lack the courage to hold them, not just when they accord with the convictions of others but against threatening opposition, in the moment of their testing, they’re superfi cial, vain things that add nothing to our self-respect or our society’s respect for the virtues we profess. We can admire virtue and abhor corruption sincerely, but without courage we are corruptible.[ . . . ]

Most of us see the need for moral courage. Most of us accept social norms: that it’s right to be honest, to respect the rights of others, to have compassion. But accepting the appropriateness of these qualities, wanting them, and teaching our children to want them aren’t the same as actually possessing them. Accepting their validity isn’t moral courage. How honest are we if we tell the truth most of the time and stay silent only


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when telling the truth might get us fi red or earn us a broken nose? We need moral cour- age to be honest all the time. It’s the enforcing virtue, the one that makes all the others possible. And it really isn’t different from physical courage, except sometimes in degree and sometimes in the occasions when it encounters risk. If you don’t have the courage to keep your virtue when facing unwanted consequences, you’re not virtuous.[ . . . ]

We do not begin life fearing losses suffered by others. We are born selfi sh and strug- gle against it all our lives. We are concerned with our self-regard, although we might recognize it is dependent on the approval of our family. Later, the circle of those whose good opinion we require widens to encompass our friends. When does the moment occur when concern for our dignity enlarges to encompass the dignity of others? I think the transformation must begin when our desire to be loved becomes love for the object of our desire. And it progresses when our desire to emulate the behavior of our beloved, to ensure their love, becomes a love for the virtues that constitute their character. In that moment our conscience is born, our capacity to see that what’s right for us is right for others. “If a man be brave,” wrote the Unitarian social reformer James Freeman Clarke, “let him obey his conscience.”

Clarke had borrowed from Goethe his life’s motto: “Do your nearest duty.” It’s not always as easy as it sounds, to see your nearest duty or to want to see it. It’s even harder to anticipate when our children will recognize their nearest duty. It’s as hard for us to recognize sometimes as it is for them. We may not want to recognize it because we fear for them more than they fear for themselves, and their nearest duty might contain risks to their immediate happiness or worse. We can pay attention to them as they recount their day at school or on the playground, and identify in the routine occurrences of their experience an occasion where a duty would have appeared to a good person, with the choice to risk something or not to do it. But we don’t always want to, even if we know that what they risk isn’t something of lasting value.

We want our children to be popular almost as much as our children want to be popular. Popularity offers temporary security, enhances confi dence, eases the petty dis- appointments of youth, and can be confused for love. But it’s not love. It has no moral quality. It’s a condition that might be hard to attain for some but doesn’t represent an achievement of lasting signifi cance. Its effects aren’t as determinative of the quality of life as you might think when you’re young and crave it. But still our children want to be popular, and we want them to be. If they are not, if they have suffered some embarrass- ment, some reduction in their circumstances in the constant ups and downs of child- hood society, we’ll try to comfort and encourage them by observing how transitory and ultimately insignifi cant a thing is popularity. But they’ll feel the loss of it just the same, as will we. We hurt for them, and while we might know the hurt will pass, we would not want them to risk it again unnecessarily.

Teaching them virtue in the abstract, without recommending it in a specifi c situa- tion, is not such a demanding thing. We don’t experience empathetic apprehension and pain by urging them to be always honest, always fair, always respectful, the virtues that will alert them of their duty. We don’t usually imagine their possession of those virtues provoking much more than the admiration of adults, their teachers, our neighbors and friends. If we’re honest, we have in the backs of our minds as we impart these lessons to our children our own pride, our regard for our children as a refl ection of our parenting. We want them to be honest and respectful because they and we will be admired for it. It’s the allure of popularity that affl icts adults no less than children.

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So it can be quite hard to help our children recognize their nearest duty if by so doing they risk social embarrassment or alienation from the peers whose friendship they most desire. But for kids, those are the most common risks of doing your nearest duty. In fact, they are the most common risks we adults face in our settled, mostly tranquil country.

What do you do when, in the course of your children’s recitation of the day’s events, they mention how bad they felt when their friend, the most popular girl or boy in the crowd, was cruel to a child with few friends, made the child cry from embarrassment and loneliness? We tell them that it’s right to feel bad about it, as we should about any cruelty infl icted on the innocent. But don’t we hesitate to tell them what they should do beyond empathizing with the victim? Maybe we recommend that they seek out the child and offer their companionship, even though we recognize such an act of decency might risk some opprobrium from the person who caused the injury. But do we recommend our children confront that popular boy or girl whose friendship they enjoy and tell them they think less of them for their unkindness? We might, but usually not without hesitation, dreading the impact it might have on our children’s happiness. It’s hard to tell children to recognize their nearest duty and to make the choice to accept it, when we know they may suffer for it.

When the pangs of our conscience confront our dread of the consequences for our loved ones who answer the call of theirs, it’s our own courage we must summon as much as theirs. We have to believe in the truths we utter to our children when they are the ones who have been hurt, treated unkindly for no reason. We have to believe that there really is no great signifi cance to being popular. We have to believe that if we love and are loved, by our family, by our true friends, and from that love we become good, the loss of popularity will hurt no longer than a bee sting. People who have only popularity to recommend themselves to our memory are soon forgotten. People with virtue, who do their nearest duty as their conscience instructs, are remembered. They are remembered as a source of happiness, not someone who resents another’s.

We cannot explain virtue just in the abstract to them and hope that somehow they’ll be okay. We have to help them recognize virtue’s opposite and to feel an outrage that in- cites us to action and to accept the consequences. Keep the consequences in perspective, know that they are not the worst things in life, but accept them; accept them and resolve to provoke them again when virtue demands.

Study Questions

1. What does McCain mean by saying that “without courage all virtue is fragile”?

2. Explain the concept of moral courage using an example. Is it different from physical courage?

3. What does McCain mean by “doing one’s nearest duty”? Does the fact that McCain is a high-profi le politician add an element to that idea? Explain why or why not?

4. For fi ve years, McCain was a POW in Vietnam. At one point he was offered his freedom but chose to stay behind with his fellow soldiers. That decision resulted in torture by his captors. Evaluate McCain’s decision in terms of physical and moral courage, and the concept of one’s “nearest duty.”


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Primary Reading

Tales of Good and Evil, Help and Harm


Excerpt, 1997.

In this chapter, you read about Philip Hallie’s encounter with people in Le Chambon who saved six thousand Jews from Nazi death camps. Here Hallie speculates that doing good is morally superior to refraining from doing evil.

Most of the old ethical theories and commandments present ethics as a friend of life and an enemy of death. And so those theories and commandments praise help and condemn harm. They celebrate the spreading of life with two sorts of ethical rules or ideals: nega- tive and positive. The negative rules are scattered throughout the Bible and other ethical documents, but Moses brought the most memorable ones down to the West from Mount Sinai: Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not betray. . . . These rules say no to the delib- erate extinction of life and joy. On the other hand, positive rules are also spread across many ethical documents. For instance, the Bible enjoins us to be our brother’s keeper. These rules say yes to the protection and spreading of life.

The naysaying ethic forbids our doing certain harmful things, and the yeasaying one urges us to help those whose lives are diminished or threatened. To follow the negative ideals you must have clean hands; but to follow the positive ones you can be less hygienic—you can dirty your hands doing something helpful. If you would be your brother’s keeper you must go out of your way. The negative ethic is the ethic of decency, of restraint. It is terrible to violate it—to be a murderer or a liar—but obey it and you could be a dead person. A corpse does not kill and does not betray. Moreover, you could obey the no ethic by being silent, and it was the silent majority in Germany and in the world who fed the torturers and the murderers with their silence. The murderers and the torturers drank the silence like wine, and it made them drunk with power.

On the other hand, the yes ethic demands action. You must be alive if you would meet its demands; sometimes you must even put your life on the line. You must go out of your way, sometimes very far out of your way. In combat I had to become a killer in order to help stop Germany in its tracks. I had to violate the no ethic in order to help stop the many tortures and murders that Nazi Germany was perpetrating in Central Europe.

. . . My experience had led me to believe that human beings are doomed either to be clean-handed and helpless or murderous and helpful. I knew no one who was both clean and noble.

But in that story about the village of Le Chambon I found people who were both. Here were people in this slaughterhouse of a world who avoided hating and hurting life and at the same time prevented murder. . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . If evil has to do with the twisting and diminution of human life, then the govern-

ment [Schmäling] ably served was evil. In a mountainous part of France where there were many French guerrilla fi ghters, he helped keep the French from stabbing his fellow Germans in the back and hindering the cruel march of Nazism. He helped an evil cause ably, and importantly.

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But if goodness has to do with the spreading of human life, and the prevention of hatred and cruelty and murder, then he was surely good. Good and evil have much to do with perspectives, points of view. If you want to know whether cruelty is happening and just how painful it is, do not ask the torturer. Do not ask someone like Obergrup- penführer [Lieutenant General] Otto Ohlendorff, the head of the special troops assigned to kill unarmed civilians in Eastern Europe. The victimizer does not feel the blows, the victim feels them. Do not ask a sword about wounds; look to the person on whose fl esh the sword falls. Victimizers can be blinded by simple insensitivity, by a great cause, by a great hatred, or by a hundred self-serving “reasons.” Victims too can be desensitized, but usually they are the best witnesses to their pain. They feel it in their fl esh and in their deepest humiliations and horrors.

And if you want to know about goodness, do not ask only the doers of good. They may be doing what they do out of habitual helpfulness or for some abstract cause. They may not realize exactly how they are helping the people they have helped: They may not be looking deeply into the eyes and minds of the benefi ciaries of their good deeds.

But usually the benefi ciaries of those deeds know. Usually they have this knowledge in their fl esh and in their passions. And usually if they do not have this knowledge, good- ness is not happening, the joy of living is not being enhanced and widened for them. Do-gooders can in fact do great harm. The points of view of victims and benefi ciaries are vital to an understanding of evil and of good.

Study Questions

1. What is the difference between naysaying ethics and yeasaying ethics? Explain. What does this have to do with the story of the people of Le Chambon?

2. What does Hallie mean by saying, “To follow the negative ideals you must have clean hands; but to follow the positive ones you can be less hygienic—you can dirty your hands doing something helpful”? Explain, and evaluate Hallie’s viewpoint: Is he right?

3. What is Hallie’s fi nal verdict on Schmäling? Was he good or evil? Explain.

Primary Reading

Is Empathy Necessary for Morality?


P. Goldie and A. Coplan (Eds.). Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press., 2011. Excerpt

In his paper Prinz argues that while empathy can be a good element in moral judg- ment and decision making, it is not necessary, and may sometimes be morally misleading.

The suggestion that empathy is necessary for morality can be interpreted in at least three different ways. One might hold the view that empathy is necessary for making moral


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judgment. One might think empathy is necessary for moral development. And one might think empathy is necessary for motivating moral conduct. I think each of these conjectures is false. Empathy is not necessary for any of these things. We can have moral systems without empathy. Of course, it doesn’t follow directly that empathy should be eliminated from morality. One might think the modal question—Can there be morality without empathy?—and the related descriptive question—Do our moral responses de- pend on empathy?—are uninteresting. One might even think that the answers to these questions are obviously negative and don’t need to be argued for. The interesting ques- tion, one might think, is whether empathy should play an integral role in morality. . . .

. . . It is plausible that empathy plays an epistemological role, leading us to have neg- ative regard for those actions that harm people and positive regard for those actions that help. If moral judgment consists in a certain kind of negative or positive regard, empathy looks like it might be fundamental to moral cognition. But close analysis severs this link.

First, consider cases where deontological considerations overrule utilitarian prin- ciples. For example, one might judge that it is bad to kill an innocent person even if his vital organs could be used to save fi ve others who desperately need transplants. Here, arguably, we feel cumulatively more empathy for the fi ve people in need than for the one healthy person, but our moral judgment does not track that empathetic response. Second, consider the moral judgments one might issue from behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance; you might decide it’s good to distribute resources to the needy because you might be needy. Here there is no empathy for the needy, but rather concern for the self. Third, while on the topic of the self, consider cases in which you yourself are the victim of a moral transgression. You judge that you’ve been wronged, but you don’t thereby empathize with yourself, whatever that would mean. Fourth, consider cases in which there is no salient victim. One can judge that it would be wrong to evade taxes or steal from a department store, for instance, without dwelling fi rst on the suffering of those who would be harmed. Fifth, there are victimless transgressions, such as necrophilia, consensual sibling incest, destruction of (unpopulated) places in the environment, or desecration of a grave of someone who has no surviving relative. Empathy makes no sense in these cases. As a descriptive claim it seems wrong to suppose that empathy is a precondition for moral judgment.

Prinz concludes that empathy is not necessary for moral judgment, moral develop- ment, or motivating moral conduct. On the contrary, empathy can create its own moral problems. So it is better to look for another emotional motivator, such as anger:

. . . First, as we have seen, empathy is not very motivating. So even if empathy elevates the level of concern, it doesn’t do so in a way that guarantees action on behalf of those in need. Vicarious anger also constitutes a species of concern, and it may be a better motivator.

Second, empathy may lead to preferential treatment. Batson et al. (1995) presented subjects with a vignette about a woman, Sheri, awaiting medical treatment, and then asked them if they wanted to move Sheri to the top of the waitlist, above others who were more needy. In the control condition, the majority declined to more her up the list, but in a condition where they were encouraged to empathize with Sheri, they overwhelm- ingly elected to move her up at the expense of those in greater need.

Third, empathy may be subject to unfortunate biases including cuteness effects. Batson et al. (2005) found that college students were more likely to feel empathetic

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concern for children, dogs, and puppies than their own peers. Batson’s notion of em- pathetic concern is not equivalent to empathy, as I am defi ning it, because it does not require feeling what the object of empathy should feel, but I think cuteness effects would also arise for empathy. For example, I’d wager that we would feel more vicarious sadness for a dying mouse than a rat, and more vicarious fear for a frog crossing the highway than a lizard. It has also been found that empathetic accuracy—which includes the ability to identify someone else’s emotions, and, thus, perhaps, to mirror them—increases when the target is viewed as attractive (Ickes et al., 1990).

Fourth, empathy can be easily manipulated. Tsoudis (2002) found that in mock trials, a jury’s recommendation for sentencing could be infl uenced by whether or not victims and defendants expressed emotions. When sadness was expressed, empathy went up, ingratiating the jury to the one who expressed the sadness. Sad victims evoked harsher sentences, and sad defendants got lighter sentences. Fifth, empathy can be highly selective. Think about the experience of watching a boxing match. You might feel great empathy when the boxer you are rooting for takes a blow, but great delight when he delivers an equally punishing blow to his opponent. In both cases, you are watching the same violent act, but the allocation of empathy can vary dramatically as a function of morally arbitrary concerns about who will win.

Sixth, empathy is prone to in-group biases. We have more empathy for those we see as like us, and that empathy is also more effi cacious. Brown et al. (2006) found that when viewing pictures of faces, people show more empathetic responses, as measured by physiology and self report, for members of the same ethnic group. Sturmer et al. (2005) found that empathy leads to helping only in cases when the person in need is a member of the in-group. In one of their studies, participants learn about someone who may have contracted hepatitis and their willingness to offer support, such as talk- ing on the phone, depended on both empathy and whether the person had the same sexual orientation as the participant. This strong in-group bias doesn’t show up in every study, but even if only occasional, it is something that defenders of empathy should worry about.

Seventh, empathy is subject to proximity effects. There was an outpouring of support for the Katrina hurricane victims in the United States in 2005, and pas- sionate expressions of empathy for the victims is still frequently expressed in public discourse here. The death toll was 1,836. A year later, an earthquake in Java killed 5,782 people and there was little news coverage in comparison. I would venture to guess that few Americans remember the incident. Nor is there much discussion of the Indian Ocean tsunami a year before Katrina. People recall that event, but discuss it here with less pathos than Katrina. This despite the fact that the death toll was 315,000. It might be suggested that Katrina continues to command our attention because the bungled relief efforts draw attention to the nation’s ongoing problems with racial prejudice, and, to that extent, the disaster remains relevant after the fact. But American prejudice can also be implicated in our failure to prevent the attempted genocide in Rwanda, in which at least 800,000 Tutsis were killed. That’s more than 435 times the death toll in Katrina, but public discussion of the events is rare here. The best explanation is that empathy increases for those who are nearby, culturally and geographically.

Eighth, empathy is subject to salience effects. Natural disasters and wars are salient, newsworthy events. They happen during temporary circumscribed periods in localized


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areas, and can be characterized in narrative terms (preconditions, the catastrophe, the aftermath). Other causes of mass death are less salient, because they are too constant and diffuse to be news items. . . .

In sum, empathy has serious shortcomings. It is not especially motivating and it is so vulnerable to bias and selectivity that it fails to provide a broad umbrella of moral con- cern. A morality based on empathy would lead to preferential treatment and grotesque crimes of omission. Empathy may do some positive work in moral cognition, such as promote concern for the near and dear, but it should not be the central motivational component of a moral system.

In response, the proponent of empathy might say that we need to empathize with distant others in order to become outraged when they are harmed. But this sugges- tion is false and futile. It’s false, because we can directly condition each other to be outraged at the thought of iniquity, genocide, and neglect. Like other emotions, anger can be learned directly. For example, anger can be conditioned through imitation. If we express outrage at injustice, our children will feel outrage at injustice. A focus on empathy, as a means to anger, would be futile because empathy is a response directed at individuals, and many of the most urgent moral events involve large numbers of people. We cannot empathize with a group, except by considering each member. The magnitude of some catastrophes is so large that it would be impossible to empathize with all the victims. And, if we could empathize with a large number, the agony of vicarious pain would cripple us into inaction. It is important to remember that death tolls are not just statistics—they involve real people—but empathizing with multitudes of victims is neither possible nor productive. What we really need is an intellectual recognition of our common humanity and combined with a keen sense that human suf- fering is outrageous. If we could cultivate these two things, we would achieve greater commitment to global welfare.

I do not want to suggest that we should actively suppress empathy. Perhaps it en- riches the lives of those who experience it, and perhaps it helps to foster close dyadic relations in personal life. But, in the moral domain, we should regard empathy with caution, given empathetic biases, and recognize that it cannot serve the central motiva- tional role in driving prosocial behavior. Perhaps empathy has a place in morality, but other emotions may be much more important: emotions such as guilt and anger. When confronted with moral offenses, it’s not enough to commiserate with victims. We should get uppity.

Study Questions

1. What does Prinz mean by saying that it isn’t enough to commiserate with victims—we should get uppity?

2. Why, according to Prinz, isn’t it enough to feel empathy for victims? Is he being fair in his description of the proponents of empathy?

3. Is Prinz right about the “cuteness effect” on our empathy? Why or why not?

4. Identify the principles involved (and the relevant chapters in this book) in Prinz’s ar- gument that we make moral decisions based on many more factors than the emotion of empathy.

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Primary Reading

On Growing Old Gracefully


The Importance of Living, 1937. Excerpt.

In this excerpt Lin Yutang talks about the duty of the adult male toward his parents and about the process of aging, which, to him, ought to be a stage characterized by both hap- piness and wisdom.

Every one realizes . . . that orphanages and old age pensions are poor substitutes for the home. The feeling is that the home alone can provide anything resembling a satisfactory arrangement for the old and the young. But for the young, it is to be taken for granted that not much need be said, since there is natural paternal affection. “Water fl ows down- wards and not upwards,” the Chinese always say, and therefore the affection for parents and grandparents is something that stands more in need of being taught by culture. A natural man loves his children, but a cultured man loves his parents. In the end, the teaching of love and respect for old people became a generally accepted principle, and if we are to believe some of the writers, the desire to have the privilege of serving their par- ents in their old age actually became a consuming passion. The greatest regret a Chinese gentleman could have was the eternally lost opportunity of serving his old parents with medicine and soup on their deathbed, or not to be present when they died. For a high offi cial in his fi fties or sixties not to be able to invite his parents to come from their native village and stay with his family at the capital, “seeing them to bed every night and greet- ing them every morning,” was to commit a moral sin of which he should be ashamed and for which he had constantly to offer excuses and explanations to his friends and colleagues. This regret was expressed in two lines by a man who returned too late to his home, when his parents had already died:

The tree desires repose, but the wind will not stop; The son desires to serve, but his parents are already gone.

. . . It seems a linguistic misfortune that hale and hearty old men in America tell people that they are “young,” or are told that they are “young” when really what is meant is that they are healthy. To enjoy health in old age, or to be “old and healthy,” is the great- est of human luck, but to call it “healthy and young” is but to detract from that glamour and impute imperfection to what is really perfect. After all, there is nothing more beau- tiful in this world than a healthy wise old man, with “ruddy cheeks and white hair,” talking in a soothing voice about life as one who knows it. The Chinese realize this, and have always pictured an old man with “ruddy cheeks and white hair” as the symbol of ultimate earthly happiness. Many Americans must have seen Chinese pictures of the God of Longevity, with his high forehead, his ruddy face, his white beard—and how he smiles! The picture is so vivid. He runs his fi ngers through the thin fl owing beard coming down to the breast and gently strokes it in peace and contentment, dignifi ed because he is surrounded with respect, self-assured because no one ever questions his wisdom, and kind because he has seen so much of human sorrow. To persons of great


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vitality, we also pay the compliment of saying that “the older they grow, the more vigorous they are.” . . .

I have no doubt that the fact that the old men of America still insist on being so busy and active can be directly traced to individualism carried to a foolish extent. It is their pride and their love of independence and their shame of being dependent upon their children. But among the many human rights the American people have provided for in their Constitution, they have strangely forgotten about the right to be fed by their chil- dren, for it is a right and an obligation growing out of service. How can any one deny that parents who have toiled for their children in their youth, have lost many a good night’s sleep when they were ill, have washed their diapers long before they could talk and have spent about a quarter of a century bringing them up and fi tting them for life, have the right to be fed by them and loved and respected when they are old? Can one not forget the individual and his pride of self in a general scheme of home life in which men are justly taken care of by their parents and, having in turn taken care of their children, are also justly taken care of by the latter? The Chinese have not got the sense of individual independence because the whole conception of life is based upon mutual help within the home; hence there is no shame attached to the circumstance of one’s being served by his children in the sunset of one’s life. Rather it is considered good luck to have children who can take care of one. One lives for nothing else in China.

Study Questions

1. Explain this quotation: “Water runs downwards and not upwards.” What does this have to do with the relationship between parents and children?

2. Evaluate Lin Yutang’s view of gratitude toward parents: Is it dependent on parental love? Why or why not? Is that an important issue?

3. When evaluating two opposing viewpoints in this chapter, Lin Yutang’s and Jane English’s, whose approach do you fi nd more appealing? Explain why.


Courage: Band of Brothers, Third Episode, “Carentan”

T O M H A N K S A N D S T E V E N S P I E L B E R G ( P R O D U C E R S )

Television series, 2001. Summary.

The highly acclaimed HBO television series Band of Brothers is, in effect, a sequel to the fi lm Saving Private Ryan (see the website)—not in the sense that we encounter the same characters, but because we move within the same time frame and subject: American sol- diers on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and further into the fi nal year of World War II. Saving Pri- vate Ryan star Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg wanted to explore in more depth the war experiences of real American soldiers on D-Day and afterward. In the series, we

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follow “Easy” (E) Company’s campaigns, with each episode’s prologue delivered by real survivors from that unit. In this narrative I’ve chosen to focus on a story that is part of, but by no means all of, the third episode: the story of Private Albert Blithe. I intend for it to illustrate the concept of physical courage, but that is an issue you may want to discuss afterward. It is the day after D-Day and the soldiers of Easy Company, having parachuted through a storm of anti-aircraft fi re, are still scattered around the Normandy countryside. Some soldiers were shot before they hit the ground; others head toward their objectives despite the loss of most of their equipment. As these stragglers from many different units encounter one another, they form impromptu teams to engage the enemy while they try to locate their brethren. Except Private Albert Blithe. When some E Company wanderers come across Blithe, we sense that something is dreadfully wrong with him—not physi- cally, but psychologically. He stares up at the sky, as if he’s a young bird fallen from its nest looking back up at the peaceful, safe haven from which it tumbled. His gaze is fi xed, he barely hears his buddies’ questions, and yet there is nothing wrong with him physically. After rejoining E Company, and surviving a fi refi ght with German soldiers in the streets of the town of Carentan, and after seeing fellow soldiers drop dead from bul- lets or have limbs torn from their bodies, Blithe sinks to the ground—not wounded, but struck blind by fear and the horrors he has seen. His superior offi cer, Lieutenant Winters, assures him that he will be sent back to England and treats him with kindness and understanding, even though there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with his eyes. Winters’s compassionate words are enough to bring Blithe around; his vision apparently returns, and he rejoins his platoon. It is during a quiet moment with another offi cer that Blithe confesses what is troubling him. We learn that after he hit the ground on D-Day, he hid in a ditch and fell asleep, rather than seek out his comrades and pursue the enemy. He feels his own fear is greater than his brain can handle. At this crucial time in his universe of terror, the brave Lieutenant Speirs (who later in the series performs acts of unfathomable courage) offers Blithe a piece of advice: You hid, he says, not because of fear, but because you still had hope—hope of survival. That hope will paralyze your actions. The only way to do your job and be a soldier is to tell yourself you’re already dead. Another battle ensues: German tanks roll over American soldiers, gunfi re is cutting down the soldiers of Easy, bullets whiz and splat around the screaming Private Blithe. But now something happens to him: He raises his rifl e, and as if to shoot back at the madness assaulting him, he fi nds the trigger and fi res (and we sense that this is the fi rst time he has fi red his gun in battle) and blindly fi res again, and again. At the end of the battle when he spies a German soldier on the skyline, he stands up, and without regard for his own safety, carefully aims this time, shoots, and sees his enemy fall. Standing over his vanquished foe, Blithe notices the man he killed is wearing an Edelweiss —an alpine fl ower that denotes its wearer as a great warrior. He takes the Edelweiss and affi xes it to his own tunic. From somewhere deep within himself, Private Albert Blithe has found courage in battle. Later when a necessary and dangerous mission calls for volunteers, he is the fi rst to step up. But this act of selfl ess courage is his undoing: He is shot in the neck; and though he is saved by a medic, we learn at the end of the episode that he never recovered from his wounds, and died in 1948, three years after the end of the war. The


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last we see of Albert Blithe, he is lying in his hospital bed, eyes staring upward, toward the peaceful sky from which he tumbled.

Study Questions

1. What happened to Blithe? Did he lose his fear? Is loss of fear necessary to fi nd courage?

2. Does Lieutenant Speirs’s advice seem wise to you? Why or why not? Does such a piece of advice apply only in battle, or is it relevant in other dangerous situations too? Is there a downside to such a piece of advice? Explain.

3. If you are a veteran, you may want to share your reaction to this story with the class or in an essay: Does it ring true? Why or why not? If you have seen the entire Band of Brothers series, you may want to put this episode into the greater context of the series.

4. Imagine what John McCain might say to the story of Blithe. Was Blithe courageous? Why or why not? What would Aristotle say?


Courage: True Grit

J O E L C O H E N , E T H A N C O H E N ( S C R E E N W R I T E R S A N D D I R E C T O R S )

Film, 2010. Based on the book by Charles Portis. Summary.

The 2010 fi lm True Grit was a remake of an earlier Western by the same name from 1969, which earned John Wayne an Academy Award as one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. The new version received an Oscar nomination for best fi lm, and has been viewed by critics as in some ways superior to the original: It comes closer to the original novel by Charles Portis; it is harsher and more historically correct; and the character of 14-year old Mattie shows more “grit.” Created by the Cohen Brothers who are famous for off-beat movies such as Fargo, the fi lm lived up to viewer expectations. But some reviewers found that the 1969 version had a charm of its own that the new one didn’t quite measure up to. Be that as it may, we get introduced to the meaning of true grit, or courageous gumption. Who has grit? Marshal Cogburn, obviously, but young Mattie also displays her own version of courage and initiative, and is in effect the main character of the movie—rare for a Western. To add to the unusual features of the movie, Mattie is played by another 14 year old girl, Hailee Steinfeld. It is Arkansas in the year 1878. Mattie Ross’s family have a small farm in Yell County, and her father has gone to Ft. Smith with their hired hand, Tom Chaney, to buy horses. When word reaches the family that Frank Ross has been murdered by Chaney and his

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two gold pieces and horse stolen, 14-year old Mattie comes to town with their foreman, Yarnell, to see to it that her father’s body is shipped back to Dardanelle for burial. And she has every intention of seeing that Chaney pays for what he has done. As she says in an early voiceover, “We must pay for everything in this world—there is nothing free, except the grace of God.” On the day they arrive in Ft. Smith, Judge Parker is conducting one of his multiple hangings. First Mattie and Yarnell visit the funeral parlor where her father lies. The undertaker is taken aback that the fi rst thing she asks is why the embalming was so expensive. Mattie gets her father’s body shipped out, and sends the foreman home to tell her mother that she’ll be delayed, because she must settle her father’s affairs. Next, Mattie goes to watch the public executions. Three men are being hanged. Mattie shows little fear, and is most interested in fi nding out about Chaney’s whereabouts. She asks the sheriff, and fi nds out that Chaney has fl ed into the Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma) on the other side of the river, and is no longer in the jurisdiction of the sheriff. Now she means to take Chaney to justice and hang him, since the local law failed to do the job. The best U.S. marshal, she asks? The sheriff gives her three choices—a superb tracker, a very mean, fearless marshal, and a very fair and just one. She asks where she can fi nd the mean one, Rooster Cogburn. She is looking for someone with true grit. We’re introduced to one-eyed U.S. Marshal Reuben Cogburn fi rst as a voice in an outhouse, and the next day in a courtroom where he is giving testimony. We learn that he will do just about anything to catch killers, including killing them if they resist— twenty-three men in four years. Not remotely interested in Mattie’s story, he dismisses her, unless she comes up with the $50 she has offered him for bringing in Chaney.

True Grit, 2010. 14-yeal old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) has hired U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to go into the Indian Territory to apprehend Tom Chaney, her father’s murderer, and bring him to trial. Mattie insists on coming along to see that she gets her money’s worth.


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Mattie has other business to attend to: She bowls the livery stable owner over with a series of logical arguments that she should be paid for her father’s horse that Chaney stole because it was in the livery stable, and furthermore she wants the deal her father made for four ponies to be nullifi ed. When the stable owner tries to brush her off, she drops the name of her lawyer, J. Noble Daggett. The following day she buys one of the ponies at a bargain price, and even secures her father’s saddle. Happy with her new horse, she calls him Little Blackie. She retrieves her father’s old Colt’s Dragoon pistol from the boardinghouse where he was staying, and spends two nights—not in a room of her own, but doubling up with an elderly lady whose cold she promptly catches. So in a fever she sees a man, in her bedroom, smoking a pipe. And he is really there—a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, who, as it happens, is also hunting for Chaney, who is wanted for having shot a Texas senator. La Boeuf has been hired by the family to bring the senator’s killer to justice—in Texas. But that doesn’t sit well with Mattie—she wants her father’s killer to stand trial in Ft. Smith, to answer for what he has done. She will have nothing to do with him, and proceeds to make plans with Rooster Cogburn. Cogburn lives in back of Chen Lee’s general store, and sleeps in a Chinese rope bed. The place is fi lthy, and he is drunk. Even so, they reach an agreement: She pays him $50 up front, with another $50 due when the job is done. At fi rst he will hear nothing of her joining him, but fi nally agrees to take her along, worn down by her persistence and her assurance that she is used to camping out—she was on a coon hunt with her dad the year before. But next morning when she comes to join him, he is already gone, with LaBoeuf, who has contacted him. They are joining forces because they have common cause— getting the reward from Texas—and they have already left for the Territory on the ferry across the river. Angrily, and fearlessly she rides Little Blackie into the water and swims the wide, swollen river to the other side. LaBoeuf promptly takes a switch to her, but Cogburn takes her side, and the team splits up—she now rides with Rooster, and LaBoeuf strikes out on his own. Rooster, who has brought a supply of liquor, tells stories from his wild life, and we get the im- pression that he is a lonely man. He used to have a family, but his wife left him with their son who never really cared for him, anyway. Seeking shelter from a snowstorm they reach a dugout where two men refuse to let them in, and Rooster and Mattie smoke them out with a coat placed over the chimney. In the gunfi ght that ensues, one young man is wounded, and Mattie persuades him to tell what he knows about her father and Ned Pepper—that Ned is due later that evening—after which he is knifed by the other man, who is then shot point-blank by Rooster, a gruesome burst of violence that leaves Mattie shocked. But she is quick to refocus, and they set up a stake-out where Rooster hopes to capture Ned Pepper and his gang, and Rooster tells Mattie an unlikely story about the time he faced down seven men and took the reins of his horse in his teeth and rode at them with two Navy Colts, and they all ran. But now LaBoeuf inadvertently walks in on the approaching gang, and the ambush is botched. LaBoeuf is wounded, but they have learned the whereabouts of Pepper and his gang, and Chaney, too: the Winding Stair Mountains. The three are now riding together again, in an awkward truce. They arrive at the hideout and fi nd it abandoned. This discourages both Rooster and LaBoeuf, who each

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decide to give up, because they consider Chaney to be long gone, and Mattie’s relentless sense of righteousness can’t persuade them to change their minds. LaBoeuf is leaving for home, and extends his hand in respect to Mattie: He misjudged her. Next morning Mat- tie goes down to the river to fetch water. To her astonishment she fi nds there is someone else there—Chaney himself, watering the gang’s horses. She brings forth her father’s old pistol and tells him he is now under arrest, and when he won’t comply, she shoots him— in the shoulder, not being used to handling the gun. The gun’s formidable kick sends her fl ying back in the water, and Chaney manages to capture her when her gun misfi res. And now she is the prisoner of Ned Pepper’s gang. Yelling out to Rooster that they will kill her if the marshal doesn’t leave, Rooster pulls out. Ned Pepper decides to leave Mattie in Chaney’s charge, and leave with his gang for his other hideout. Mattie is highly upset because she of course doesn’t trust Chaney, and Chaney is upset because he thinks Pepper is abandoning him. Pepper and his gang de- part, and soon after Chaney attacks Mattie with a knife; but up from behind him comes LaBoeuf, who knocks Chaney unconscious with his rifl e stock. Meanwhile, down below the cliff, Ned Pepper and his gang are stopped by Rooster. The following dialogue en- sues, in a direct quote from the Portis book:

Rooster Cogburn: “I mean to see you killed in one minute, Ned, or see you hanged in Ft. Smith at Judge Parker’s convenience. Which will you have?”

Ned Pepper: “I call that bold talk, for a one-eyed fat man!” Rooster Cogburn: “Fill your hand, you son-of-a-bitch!”

Taking his reins in his teeth like in the story he told Mattie, Rooster rides against the four men with his two guns blazing, and manages to kill three of them and hit Ned—but Ned manages to shoot and kill Rooster’s horse. And now Rooster’s leg is trapped under the dead weight of his horse. But La Boeuf, being a marksman, man- ages to shoot Ned from the cliff high above at a distance of 400 yards, before he can kill Cogburn. So, a happy ending? Not so fast. Chaney has come to, and knocks LaBoeuf out. Mattie grabs LaBoeuf’s powerful rifl e and shoots and kills Chaney—but the recoil pushes her down in a deep pit, with rattlesnakes. And one sinks its teeth into her arm. Will Marshal Cogburn be able to save Mattie? You must see the fi lm for yourself and fi nd out what happens to Mattie, Cogburn, and LaBoeuf. And if you already know the 1969 fi lm, don’t count on the ending being the same in the Cohen Brothers’ version!

Study Questions

1. Would you consider Mattie’s courage to be of the physical or moral kind, or both? Explain.

2. Would you describe Rooster Cogburn as a brave man? Why or why not?

3. In the 2010 version of the story Mattie is the main character, while in the 1969 original Cogburn is clearly the center of attention. Do you think it makes a difference, inasmuch as the story focuses on having “grit”?


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Compassion: The Parable of the Good Samaritan

From the New Testament, Luke 10:30–37, King James Version.

For readers with a Christian background, the story of the Good Samaritan is the archetypal story of compassion. The Good Samaritan is one of the parables of Jesus of Nazareth, and it is intended to be taken as an allegory.

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go and do thou likewise.

To the modern reader, the story illustrates that the Good Samaritan is the one who is truly good because he acts with compassion, whereas others, who are supposed to know the difference between right and wrong, do nothing. For contemporaries of Jesus, however, the story may have meant something slightly different. A Samaritan was, for the Jews of Israel, a social outcast; the Samaritans were a population politically and ethnically distinct from the Hebrews, and people from Samaria were not held in high regard. The Jews, then, would have seen Jesus’ purpose in telling the story as not so much instructing us to be compassionate as instructing us to recognize who our neighbor is (our neighbor is any person who acts with compassion toward us). The lesson is, “Even” a Samaritan can be our neighbor. But of course the overriding lesson is to “go and do likewise.”

Study Questions

1. Explain what Jesus seems to mean by using the term neighbor. Is this story meaningful for Christians only, or might it also appeal to people of other faiths, agnostics, and atheists? Explain.

2. What might an ethical egoist say about this story? Why? Would you have a critical r esponse, or would you agree? Why?

3. A university study conducted years ago tested people’s willingness to stop and help someone in distress. A group of students were told to go to a lecture about the parable of the Good Samaritan, and on their way they encountered a man who appeared to be in severe pain. Apparently, the topic of the lecture didn’t make any difference: Many

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of those students who thought they were early for the talk stopped to help, whereas few of the students who thought they were late stopped. Do you think it would make a difference to you, if you found yourself having to choose between helping or hurry- ing on, whether you remembered this story?

Arrival of the Good Samaritan at the Inn (1866) by Gustave Doré. The Good Samaritan has rescued a victim of a highway assault and here is taking him to be cared for. The Samaritan pays for the victim’s keep and treatment out of his own pocket and lets the innkeeper know that if the costs add up to more, he will pay for that, too.

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Compassion: Schindler’s List

S T E V E N Z A I L L I A N ( S C R E E N W R I T E R )

S T E V E N S P I E L B E R G ( D I R E C T O R )

Film, 1993. Based on the 1982 book by Thomas Keneally. Summary.

All the story summaries in this book come with a strong suggestion: that you experience the stories in their original version because the summaries are intended only to highlight certain moral problems and can in no way do justice to the experience of reading the book or watching the fi lm. That is especially true of the award-sweeping Schindler’s List, based on a true story from Poland in World War II. The historical fact of the Holocaust is (or ought to be) familiar to everyone, but even if we think we know what happened, the experience of hearing and seeing people suffering (even in a Hollywood version) is more powerful than any words can convey. For the sake of the moral of the story, I have to tell you the entire story line, but I have, of course, omitted a great many details. The year is 1939; the place is Kraków, Poland; the Nazi army has by now taken Poland, and Polish Jews are being moved to the 600-year-old Kraków ghetto. Deprived of the right to make a living, the Jews are trying to adjust. A German Gentile, Oskar Schindler, approaches the Judenrat (the Jewish Council) with a suggestion: Their investments and his business sense could make the start of a new factory. But Itzhak Stern, a member of the council, turns him down. We see Schindler getting cozy with top Nazi offi cials, showing himself to be a high roller and making friends, all for the sake of future business connections. Two years later the overcrowded ghetto becomes a prison for Kraków’s Jewish popu- lation; everybody of Jewish heritage is moved into the old city, and Schindler profi ts from the situation: He takes over the beautiful apartment belonging to a Jewish businessman. And now he again approaches the council with his suggestion; this time they are desper- ate for food and other goods unavailable to them, so investors agree to help Schindler set up his factory, making enamelware crockery. Stern becomes his production manager and immediately sees a way to help people in the ghetto by hiring them as skilled workers for the factory, people who have never done manual labor before—a rabbi, a musician, a history professor—because if they can’t prove that they can contribute to the war effort, they will be deported. Schindler sends for his wife from his hometown and proudly tells her that he is about to get rich—that all his previous failed business ventures lacked an essential ingre- dient that is now present: war. He is selling his crockery to his Nazi friends and making money hand over fi st. When Stern leaves his identifi cation papers behind and is stopped without them, the Nazis are quick to put him on a train to Auschwitz. As the train pulls out, Schindler turns up and saves him by threatening the young Nazi offi cers with an end to their careers; Stern is grateful, but it is clear that Schindler didn’t do it for Stern’s sake. He says, “What if I’d got here fi ve minutes later? Then where would I be?”

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For the others being sent to Auschwitz there is no salvation; we see their suitcases opened by Nazi offi cials, the contents placed on shelves, their jewelry collected—and their gold teeth as well. A new commander arrives at Plazov, the nearby labor camp: He is Amon Goeth, a ruthless and barely sane man who delights in shooting people at the slightest provoca- tion or merely as target practice. On his order the Nazi storm troopers commence the liquidation of the Kraków ghetto: Everybody is rounded up and either shot on the spot or moved to Plazov. From a hilltop overlooking the ghetto, Schindler watches the hor- ror of the mass murder. From afar he notices a little girl in a red coat ( Schindler’s List is a black-and-white fi lm; the girl’s coat is one of only a few items of color); we see his reac- tion when he understands that the girl will not survive. Back in his factory, Schindler is all alone; the workers are gone. So he goes to Goeth to get his workers back, complaining that he is losing money. Goeth demands a cut of his profi t and lets him have his workers back, all except Stern. Up until now profi t may have been the true drive behind Schindler’s actions, but when he is approached by a young woman begging him to take in her parents as “work- ers” so they won’t be killed, he agrees (after fi rst refusing). We begin to see a change in him; he is beginning to see his Jewish workers, the “Schindler Jews,” as people. Goeth is in no such frame of mind, though—he tells his maid, one of the young Jewish women, that he likes her, even if “she is not a person in the strictest sense of the word.” When he is tempted to kiss the frightened young woman, he accuses her of almost seducing him and cuts her up with a piece of broken glass. More prisoners are arriving at Plazov, and Goeth wants to make room for them; his method is to sort the healthy from the unhealthy, and so he forces the entire camp to take off their clothes and run around in a circle, naked, under the eyes of the camp doctors. Anyone looking less than completely fi t is taken aside and shot. When the survivors are allowed to dress, they are elated—but their joy is short-lived: In the meantime, the Nazis have rounded up the children and are now taking them away to be exterminated. A few children manage to hide, some of them inside the latrine. After a period of more heartbreaks, Stern tells Schindler that he has been put in charge of the fi nal “evacuation” to Auschwitz, with himself on the last train. Schindler is resigned to going home with his money and calling it quits, but as he is packing up all his money, he thinks of a use for it: He approaches Goeth and asks if he can buy his workers’ lives, to have them transferred to another camp to set up a new factory. Goeth drives a hard bargain and agrees; now Schindler and Stern together must make a list of names of people to be saved: as many names as Schindler can afford. In the end, the list includes more than 1,100 Jews, and Stern tells him, “The list is life”—all around it is death. So the Schindler Jews are taken to the safe haven of Schindler’s hometown in Czechoslovakia; but only the men and boys arrive. The train with the women and the girls has been side- tracked, through a clerical error—to Auschwitz. By bribing the overseer at Auschwitz with diamonds, Schindler buys his women workers back but has to put up a fi ght to save their daughters. Finally the families are reunited, and for the remaining seven months of the war the factory produces useless artillery shells, for Schindler does not want to contribute to the killing. By the time the war ends, Schindler has no more money; he has spent his entire fortune saving 1,100


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people. Saying good-bye to his Jewish friends (he is now considered a war criminal and must fl ee), he breaks down, thinking that he might have saved just a few more people if he had sold his car and his jewelry, but Stern and the others give him a letter, signed by everyone, and a gold ring with a quote from the Talmud: “Whoever saves one life saves an entire world.” They collected the gold by extracting their own gold teeth and melting them down.

Study Questions

1. Explain the quote from the Talmud: “Whoever saves one life saves an entire world.”

2. How does the compassion shown by Schindler compare with the virtue of hospitality shown by the people of Le Chambon? (See the discussion of Philip Hallie.)

3. Does the fact that Schindler originally hired the Kraków Jews for profi t detract from his efforts to save them? Why or why not? (Here you might use Berger’s criteria for gratitude.)

4. Compare the scene in which the prisoners are forced to run naked in front of the Nazi offi cers with Hallie’s theory of institutionalized cruelty.

Philip Hallie talks about the institutionalized cruelty of Nazi Germany and of the antidote of hospitality provided by the people of Le Chambon; another example of an antidote against the Nazi horrors is the true story of Oskar Schindler, told by Steven Spielberg in his 1993 fi lm Schindler’s List (Universal Pictures). By hiring Jews as workers in his factory, Schindler was able to cheat the Nazi extermina- tion machinery of more than 1,100 men, women, and children. Here Schindler (Liam Neeson) argues desperately with an SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp that the children of his workers are also needed at his factory because their small hands can polish the inside of artillery shell casings.

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Gratitude: Eat Drink Man Woman

H U I - L I N G W A N G , J A M E S S C H A M U S ,

A N D A N G L E E ( S C R E E N W R I T E R S )

A N G L E E ( D I R E C T O R )

Film, 1994. Summary.

This fi lm is an early fi lm by Ang Lee, before his rise to U.S. fame with fi lms such as The Remains of the Day and Brokeback Mountain. I chose it for its confl ict between the old Confucian virtue of gratitude toward parents (in particular the virtue of children’s sacri- fi cing their happiness for the sake of their parents) and the virtue of seeking and creating happiness wherever you can fi nd it. The master chef Chu is preparing one of his fantastic meals—not at the restaurant where he has been working for many years, but at his home in Taipei, Taiwan. Every- thing is prepared with serious dedication, even though Chu has a problem: He has lost his sense of taste. His three grown daughters, whom he is cooking for, don’t hesitate to point out if there is something amiss with the recipes; quarreling is not unusual in their home, and before she died, their mother used to quarrel with their father herself. It seems that the only way Chu knows how to express himself is through cooking, and it is through his efforts with his meals that we realize how much he cares for his daughters, especially the middle daughter, Jia-Chien. Jia-Chien is a modern young woman: She is an airline executive, she has a once-in- a-while lover, and she is preparing to move out of her childhood home. We learn that she grew up in her father’s restaurant kitchen and learned all the elaborate recipes, but her father wanted her to get a “real job,” so she had to give up her dreams of becoming a great chef. The youngest daughter, Jia-Ning, is working as a waitress and trying very hard to steal her best friend’s boyfriend away from her. The oldest daughter, Jia-Jen, a math teacher, has had a sad life: Nine years ago her boyfriend, a young student of chemistry, broke up with her and went to the United States, and she has never been able to get over it. Now she has converted to Christianity and believes she must resign herself to staying single to take care of their father. Chu may love his daughters, but he does not understand them. After work at the restaurant (where he salvaged a botched dinner for important customers), he and his old friend, Old Wen, get drunk together and talk about life. Wen says, “Eat, drink, man, woman—food and sex—basic desires—can’t avoid them!” Chu complains, “All my life, every day, all I do. . . . is that all there is? Is this the good life?” And Old Wen replies, “We’re still alive, still cooking, thank God.” Dinners in the Chu household are the times when family announcements are made, and Jia-Chien announces that she is moving out, thus stealing her father’s thunder, for he had an announcement to make too, but we don’t get to hear it. And it looks as if things are going well for her: She is about to be promoted to a position in Amsterdam. A new


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colleague is introduced to her at work, a young man who has lived for years in the United States, and she fi nds herself attracted to him but is horrifi ed when she realizes that he is her sister’s former boyfriend, the man who broke her heart. She is even more horrifi ed when she confronts him with the old story and learns that he has no idea who her sister is—the girl he used to date was her sister’s best friend, Jin-Rong. So now Jia-Chien knows that her sister made the whole thing up. Jin-Rong herself married someone else and is now getting divorced from him. They live close by Mr. Chu’s house. She has a little daughter, Shan-Shan, and Mr. Chu fi nds himself becoming protective toward the little girl; he watches her get on the bus to school, a tiny child disappearing among pushy big adults, and we can tell that his heart goes out to her. Since her mother is not a good cook, he begins to prepare a lunchbox with elaborate little dishes for Shan-Shan; he takes Jin-Rong’s food home and eats it (it is not very good). It soon turns out that Jin-Rong has found out, but she is not angry—she is very grateful that Mr. Chu cares about her little girl. Changes are happening in Jin- Rong’s household, too: Her mother is returning after having lived in the United States for many years. Mrs. Liang smokes, gossips, and loves to visit with Mr. Chu, and Chu’s daughters soon believe they know what is happening: perhaps a permanent arrangement between their father and Mrs. Liang? Old Wen collapses at work and is taken to the hospital, where Jia-Chien visits with him. Here he tells her that her father represses his emotions but that he loves her and is very proud of her. The next time she goes to visit Old Wen he has left for home, but further down the hallway she sees a familiar fi gure: her father, walking into the cardio- vascular unit. At this moment her attitude toward her father changes: She believes he is keeping up a brave front but that his days are numbered, and when Old Wen dies on his fi rst day back at work the reality of her father’s age and the brevity of life overwhelms her. So when her promotion to the Amsterdam offi ce comes through, she turns it down, to the surprise of her coworkers: She thinks her father needs her more. Family developments continue, all announced during dinners: Jia-Ning has become pregnant and moves in with her new boyfriend; Jia-Jen falls in love with the new coach at her school and marries him in secret; and that leaves Chu and Jia-Chien alone in the big old house, except for visits from Mrs. Liang, her daughter, Jin-Rong, and little Shan-Shan. But now Chu has an announcement to make, and he prepares a most elaborate dinner for everybody: the daughters and the two new husbands, Jin-Rong, her daughter and her mother. During the dinner he toasts his daughters, one toast after another, because he is trying to gather enough courage to say what must be said. The daughters, as well as Mrs. Liang, believe they know what he is going to say. Most believe that he will announce his engagement to Mrs. Liang; Jia-Chien believes the bad news about his health will fi nally come out. But Chu has something else on his mind. Proudly (and a bit drunkenly) he proclaims that he has sold the old house, shows Mrs. Liang his new health certifi cate to prove he is in great shape, and asks, formally, for her daughter’s, Jin-Rong’s, hand in marriage. Jin-Rong, the same age as his oldest daughter, Jia-Jen, sits modestly by his side, facing the incredulous family, and Mrs. Liang falls off her chair in a fainting spell. That was not the news she had expected. The evening ends in general emotional upheaval. A few months later: Jin-Rong is pregnant and happy in their new house. Chu comes to visit the almost-empty old house for the last time and have a last meal there—but this

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time it is Jia-Chien who is cooking: Using her skills to prepare a meal the way her father has taught her, she proves that she really is a marvelous cook. And as they sit there, the two of them together, her father gently criticizing her food, he realizes that he can taste her soup—that his palate is functioning again and that for the fi rst time in years he can taste food.

The fi lm Eat Drink Man Woman (Central Motion Pictures, 1994) explores updated versions of Confucian values in a modern Taiwanese family: When the oldest daughter believes that her father needs her, she gives up any idea of marriage (at least for a while); when, later, the middle daughter suspects that her father is ill, she gives up a career opportunity to stay with him. Here the middle daughter (Chien-Lien Wu) and her father (Sihung Lung) share a moment of understanding over an excellent dinner for two.


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Study Questions

1. How does the fi lmmaker use food as a symbol in this fi lm?

2. Describe the Confucian traditions in the fi lm, and contrast them with the modern elements.

3. If you believed that your aging mother or father needed you, would you give up a promotion∕transfer you had wanted in order to become a caregiver and stay at home for the remainder of your parent’s life? Why or why not? How would Lin Yutang respond? How would Jane English respond?


Gratitude: Pay It Forward

L E S L I E D I X O N ( S C R E E N W R I T E R )

M I M I L E D E R ( D I R E C T O R )

Film, 2000. Based on the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Summary.

This fi lm can be viewed within several contexts in this book: One context is the virtue of gratitude, which is why it is placed in this chapter, but you could equally well view it in light of Chapter 4 and the discussions about selfi shness and altruism. On a rainy winter night, there is a hostage situation in Los Angeles. A young journal- ist’s car is totaled by the fl eeing hostage taker’s SUV, and he is now stranded in the rain, at night, in L.A. Out of the mist comes a man who hands the journalist the keys to his Jaguar. It’s his to keep, says the stranger—“Call it generosity among strangers.” Cut to Las Vegas, four months earlier. It is the fi rst day of school, and social stud- ies teacher Eugene Simonet is giving his usual class introduction to the seventh grade. Simonet’s face is disfi gured after what looks like a burn accident, and he obviously has a chip on his shoulder. He asks the kids, Are they interested in the world? One of these days the world will be in their face, he says, and they may want to try to change it. So he gives them an assignment—the same he gives every year: “Think of an idea to change the world, and put it into action.” An eleven-year old boy, Trevor, takes the idea to heart. On his way home he sees a homeless young man trying to eat garbage. The next thing we see is Trevor having dinner at home—cereal and milk—with the homeless man. Trevor’s project is beginning to take shape, the Pay it Forward project. But his mother, Arlene, who is a waitress in a casino, comes across the homeless guy, Jerry, in her garage and is not enthusiastic; frightened and skeptical, she questions Trevor, who tells her it is an assignment. She goes to his school to confront Simonet. The meeting doesn’t go well: Simonet is standoffi sh, and she resents him for being condescending. Arlene, divorced from Trevor’s father, is an alcoholic. She comes home one day to fi nd the homeless man, Jerry, in her garage—repairing her truck so she can sell it. He is already paying Trevor’s

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good deed forward: Trevor gave him money so he could get cleaned up, and he found a job—and he’ll try to kick his drug habit. Now Trevor explains his project in class: If we each help three strangers, and they in turn have to help three other strangers, then we will see a very rapid change for the better in the world. But each act of helping has to be a major, diffi cult thing, or it doesn’t count. Simonet is impressed—it is the fi rst new idea he has heard in his years of teaching. Trevor experiences two setbacks—Jerry has a relapse into drugs, so now Trevor has to fi nd someone else to help. He focuses on a small school friend who suffers from asthma and who is regularly tortured by two older boys; but when push comes to shove, Trevor can’t make himself intervene. And the third person he has decided to help? Simonet. He wants him to date his mother, both for the teacher’s sake and for Arlene’s—because Arlene is an alcoholic and needs someone stable in her life, and if someone is there, then Trevor’s father might not try to come back. We hear that Trevor’s father, Ricky, has beaten up Arlene on several occasions, and we understand that Trevor is afraid the old pattern is going to repeat itself, in a never-ending circle of alcohol and violence. So now Trevor plays matchmaker for his mom and Eugene Simonet. Slowly the two warm up to each other and begin to understand that they are not trapped in roles where they are unloved and unwanted. For a short while they seem like a happy couple, and all three act like a content, normal nuclear family—until the return of Ricky puts an end to their

From the fi lm Pay It Forward: For a short while, Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) is happy: He has brought his mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), and his favorite teacher, Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), together, and it looks as if things might be working out. But Trevor’s violent, alcoholic father, Ricky, returns, and Arlene decides to give him another chance.


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happiness. Arlene decides to give Ricky another chance, and when Eugene blames her for exposing Trevor to danger, we fi nally hear the story behind Eugene’s disfi gurement: His own father was a violent alcoholic, and when Eugene was sixteen, he confronted his father—who beat him senseless, dragged him into the garage, doused him with gasoline, and set fi re to him. In the meantime, we hear more about the journalist who was given a Jaguar by a complete stranger. Intrigued, he has tracked down the owner and made him reveal why he gave away his car. He was “paying it forward”—after an immense gesture extended to him by a very unlikely character: He was in the emergency room with his daughter, who was suffering from an asthma attack, and the nurse wasn’t paying attention to her. An injured man, a young black gangbanger, took charge and forced the nurse to help the gasping girl, fi ring his gun to make a point. The gunman went to prison, but the girl’s life was saved. And the gunman told the father that he must pay the favor forward, to three people—so the journalist stuck in the rain was one. The journalist seeks out the young black man in prison and gets him to tell his story by arranging an early parole date. The young man explains that he was running away from rival gang members in Vegas when an old white lady gave him a ride and saved his life—she was a bag lady, living out of her car, and she told him to pay it forward. So now the journalist must look for the old lady in Las Vegas, because he recognizes a good story when he sees one. We meet Jerry one more time; he has left Las Vegas and gone up to the Pacifi c North- west, without being able to kick his drug habit. Absorbed in his own misery, he crosses a bridge—and sees a woman about to jump to her death. He manages to talk her down and realizes that he is now paying it forward—Trevor’s project is indeed spreading. The journalist manages to fi nd the bag lady, who tells her story. Her daughter had sought her out in one of the places where she’d normally drink herself into a stupor and spend the night, simply to tell her that she had forgiven her—for terrible things done to her when she was a child, by her mother’s boyfriends while her mother was drunk. She will even let her mother visit with her son again, if the old lady can stay sober; and she has decided to forgive her mother because of an invention her son has made, which he calls “pay it forward.” The daughter is, of course, Arlene, Trevor’s mother. So now the journalist fi nally meets Trevor, the source of the project that is spreading like wildfi re— to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, and the Northwest. On his twelfth birthday he is interviewed by the journalist at the school. Trevor is not impressed with himself; he doesn’t think he has succeeded, but he does tell the journalist that you have to try to make changes—that some people are so afraid of change, even for the better, that they just give up. Hearing these words, Eugene realizes that he is one of those people, and he and Arlene fall into each other’s arms. And that night, Trevor’s interview will be broadcast on national TV, and everyone will hear about the Pay It Forward project. After the interview Trevor is about to leave the school and sees his friend, the asth- matic boy, again being attacked by the two older boys. Trevor wants so badly to make the world better, to make a difference—will he be able to help his friend this time? Will he be able to enjoy the changes he has indeed set in motion and have a real family life with his mother and Eugene? I will not reveal the ending of the fi lm—you will have to watch it yourself.

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Study Questions

1. What might Fred Berger say about showing one’s gratitude by paying it forward? Would that be an appropriate reaction? Why or why not? What would Jane English say?

2. Could you undertake a project such as “Pay it Forward”? Whom would you choose to help? Remember the help must be big, and diffi cult for you, if it is to count. And what if someone chooses to do something special for you, as a “Pay it Forward” project— would you feel obliged to continue the project?

3. If you do a big favor for someone, would you be content with him or her paying it for- ward, or would you like a show of gratitude that is directed toward yourself?

4. From a realistic (some would say, cynical) point of view, is this a wise behavior model to follow? In 2003 a young girl was abducted and killed by a homeless man the family had invited home for dinner, and the same year Elizabeth Smart was abducted by a street person her father had hired as a handyman to help him out—but Elizabeth was rescued and returned safely nine months later. Is it advisable to do favors for strang- ers, as Trevor does? Are we being too cynical if we think of worst-case scenarios?

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Chapter Twelve

Different Gender, Different Ethics?

I n this book we have examined prominent theories regarding ethics of conduct and virtue ethics, and their applications. As you have seen, both men and women have contributed to those theories, especially since the middle of the twentieth century. But in addition, there is a special branch of ethics dealing with the question of gen- der, and we generally label it feminist ethics, even if there is a great variety of opinions within this branch. Feminist ethics asks two separate, but related, questions: (1) Is there a morally correct way for society to approach the issue of gender equality? and (2) Is ethics gender-specifi c—meaning, is there an approach to ethics that is typical for women, and another for men? In this chapter we look at both issues. If you ask a woman in the Western world today whether she is a feminist, chances are she will say no; if you ask her whether she believes that women and men should have equal opportunities, that women should not be discriminated against based on their gender, and that women and men should get equal pay for equal work, chances are she will say yes, and so will most men. That, according to classical feminism, qualifi es anyone who agrees as a feminist, because those are the goals of classical feminism. But the word has today been weighed down by additional con- notations to the extent that many people don’t want to be associated with the idea of feminism; the term feminazis, coined by talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, hasn’t helped any. Are feminists the same as feminazis? Not according to Limbaugh him- self, who says he reserves the term “feminazis” for those he considers radicals. But the label “feminism” has caused some people to assume that all feminists somehow want to rule the world. If you believe that we should end sex discrimination and help create a friendly, cooperative working environment as well as private partnership for men and women based on equality, however, you are in fact a feminist, regardless of whether you are male or female according to many contemporary feminists.

Feminism and Virtue Theory

Originally, feminism was associated with acquiring political and social rights for women: the right to work, to own property, to vote, to get a divorce, and other rights considered irrelevant for women by most thinkers with political infl uence until well into the nineteenth century. Later in the chapter we take a brief look at that devel- opment. During its struggle for political equality, feminism rarely regarded itself as a separate moral theory; the male-dominated (often called patriarchal by feminists) world would often point to women’s sensibilities as those of a higher moral view (think of the role of the schoolmarm in Western movies, exercising her civilizing

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infl uence), but because that was usually coupled with an assumption that women were unfi t for life in the rough and heartless real world of men, early feminists usu- ally placed little emphasis on that notion. However, a connection not just to ethics as such, but to virtue theory as well has become apparent in the past decades. For modern virtue theory the important question is, How should I be? In other words, What is the character I should strive for? The moral rules of “doing unto oth- ers,” of “universalizing one’s maxim,” of “maximizing happiness for as many as pos- sible,” and of “treating everyone with impartial fairness” take second place to virtues such as loyalty to family and friends, generosity, compassion, and courage. A moral vice may, under such circumstances, very well turn out to be related to a famous rule of moral conduct: If you act only when you can imagine others being allowed to do the same thing (Kant’s categorical imperative), then your child or friend may die while you wonder about allowing all others to defend their child or friend. If you insist on treating everyone with impartial fairness (John Rawls’s “original position”), you have an equal obligation to a starving person on the other side of the world and to your niece down the street; you have no right to prefer helping your niece. Virtue ethics, however, discards that approach as a breach of loyalty and family responsibil- ity and insists that you should help your niece before you spread yourself thin helping strangers. And you can be accused of the same vice if you are trying to make strang- ers happy (the principle of utility) at the expense of the needs of your family. This is where the connection to modern feminism comes in. You have already read, in Chapter 7, that Rawls was criticized for assuming we can pretend to be just strangers to one another to achieve fairness. In this chapter, we will take a look at the modern feminist theory that is the basis for that criticism, a theory that suggests that women and men tend to view the entire fi eld of ethics from different viewpoints. Whereas men (who have written most of the theories about ethics, law, and justice

Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott

BABY BLUES © 2007 Baby Blues Partnership. King Features Syndicate

The dismayed homemaker mom in Kirkman and Scott’s Baby Blues is observing her kids reenact a debate that has been known to happen but that was—arguably—not intended by most feminists: that gender equality should mean more advantages for the girls, and fewer for the boys! Do you think Mom is being serious in her answer to her young son?

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so far) tend to think of morality in terms of rules of conduct, justice, and fairness, says the theory, women tend to think of morality in terms of relationships, of staying friends, and of caring for those who are close to you or for whom you have accepted responsibility. In other words, women tend to think in terms of the virtues of caring, loyalty, and compassion. That theory is advanced by the psychologist Carol Gilligan, and we look at her ideas in further detail later. But fi rst we must take a look at the idea of gender equality: What is it? Do we have it now? And what has been done to achieve it?

What Is Gender Equality?

The purpose of feminism throughout its history, with a few exceptions (such as the 1960s women’s organization SCUM, Society for Cutting Up Men, which may or may not have been meant as a joke), has been to achieve equality for the sexes. Today many refer to that goal as gender equality. (See Box 12.1 for an explanation of “sex” versus “gender.”) You know from Chapter 7 that the principle of equality does not imply that everyone is the same but that everyone should be treated as equals unless special circumstances apply. But what exactly does that entail when applied to the two sexes? Below we look at the concepts of cultural as well as biological equality.

Gender and Language

Since the Enlightenment and on into the twenty-fi rst century, it has been customary to use words of the masculine gender to refer to both males and females. For many of us it is surprising to learn that the term man in some political statements, such as the American Declaration of Independence (“All men are created equal”), may not have been intended to cover women or people of color—an issue that is being discussed among constitutional scholars today. It is not true, of course, that the term men can always be used to include women; it doesn’t make any sense to say, for instance, that half of all men have ovaries and half don’t. Today, the use of the terms he and men to include women is considered by many to be discriminatory. And even though very few men or women ever intended discrimination by using the word he for a man or a woman and man for all human- kind, we now are moving away from what is known as “gender-specifi c” language toward “gender-neutral” language, because many believe that even when used with the best intentions, gender-specifi c terms subconsciously tell us that being male is somehow more important than being female and that certain social roles are best

By consensus, the term that is most commonly used today when people talk about sexual differ- ences that go beyond mere biological functions

is gender. Although this used to be a strictly grammatical term, it now is used as a sociopo- litical term instead of the biological term sexual.

Box 12.1 S E X O R G E N D E R ?

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performed by men. The real reason for being sensitive about gender and language is, of course, to achieve gender equality. (Box 12.2 provides a discussion of issues involved in gender-neutral language.) Textbooks and cultural documents are continually being reworded to accom- modate our new sensitivity toward gender and language. The Catholic Church has offi cially endorsed the use of non-gender-specifi c language in religious documents and biblical translations. Gender-specifi c words such as mailman, chairman, house- wife, and maid have been changed to mail carrier, chairperson, homemaker, and main- tenance assistant to signify that those terms cover both genders. Writers and speakers alike are instructed to avoid the use of he as a generic term and instead use he or she, they, one, or you. College students are urged to avoid gender-specifi c language in their term papers. Perhaps you think this is a subject of little importance—that it is merely a matter of semantic misunderstanding. But consider this: If you are male and you hear a statement such as “Now is the time for every man to stand up for what he believes in,” there is a good chance you will feel somehow compelled to think hard about what you believe in. If you are female, you may feel the same way, but chances

People often seem to feel that we are getting too radical in our elimination of gender-specifi c terms. It may make sense to do away with words such as chairman and fi reman and use chairper- son and fi refi ghter instead, but what about all the words in the English language that just happen to include a gender-specifi c term but for which there is no graceful substitute? Will freshman now be freshperson? Do we have to say personhole cover instead of manhole cover? How about manpower ? And manned space missions ? (And, jokesters might ask, how about man -ipulate? and his- tory?) Other languages present similar challenges, but some languages have less of a problem fi nding a com- mon word for humanity. German has a specifi c term for “human being”— Der Mensch —which is different from the terms for man and woman but which still includes a gender-specifi c term ( Mensch, which is masculine in gender). In Danish the word for “human being” is a gender- neutral term, Et Menneske. And in Swedish, the term for “human being” is En Människa, a gram- matically feminine word! To make matters even

more interesting, there is a word in ancient Icelandic, man, that means slave/maid/mistress! Apparently that word has no connection with the ancient Germanic word for man ( Madr ), which is the source for the term man in English. So, getting back to the manhole covers, what should we do? Change some words and not oth- ers? Manhole covers have actually been referred to as “utility covers” in recent years. So should we change all such words? Leave them all the way they are? Two things are at stake here: the self-esteem of half the English-speaking popu- lation and the comfort of those used to an es- tablished language. We can choose from among four major courses of action: (1) Forcibly change language to some degree (and we have seen that this can be done within a generation). (2) Wait until a new gender-neutral terminol- ogy evolves by itself, in response to the changing times. (3) Make a distinction between sexist and nonsexist terms and change only the blatantly sexist ones. (4) Insist on keeping the traditional terms. What would you suggest?

Box 12.2 T H E I S S U E I S M A N H O L E C O V E R S

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are you will feel, subconsciously, that somehow that statement does not apply to you; you may even think, “Yes, it is about time they pulled themselves together!” If even a few women feel excluded when they read or hear language that uses the mas- culine gender—excluded either in the sense of feeling left out or in the sense of not having to get involved—then that is enough reason to make some changes in the way we phrase things. It is all the more surprising to many who have advocated gender-neutral lan- guage that a new trend is spreading in academic literature: Instead of the neutral “they,” a frequently encountered term nowadays is “she,” using the female pronoun instead of “he” or “they”/ “one”/ “you.” A contemporary text may say, “Whenever a person contemplates the needs of another, she must remember that we don’t all want the same,” or “The soldier in battle must surely have considered that she might not survive.” The rationale is, presumably, that it provides a counterweight to all the texts that used to say he, and makes woman into an exemplar, a typical human being, no matter what the context. Some scholars fi nd this liberating, others deplore the waning of the gender-neutral effort. (I freely admit a bias—this textbook uses the gender-neutral language whenever possible.)

Is Biology Destiny?

When we ask whether sexual equality exists, we really are asking one of two ques- tions: (1) Does cultural and social equality exist? or (2) Does biological equality exist? The fi rst question is relative to the historical time period: Today we have reason to say that we have not reached total equality yet, but we hope to do so in the future. (In the past, in Western society, the answer would have been a fl at no.) But if we ask the second question, we have to ask a follow-up question: What do we mean by “biological equality”? Do we mean that men and women are the same? or similar? That they will do similar things in similar situations? Or perhaps that they have a similar genetic makeup, even if there are cultural differences? The bottom line is the difference between a descriptive and a normative ap- proach. A descriptive theory of equality compares capabilities and pronounces peo- ple to be “similar” or “dissimilar.” A normative theory of equality may or may not look at the “facts” presented by the descriptive theory, but states that people ought to be treated a certain way—(1) the same, or (2) similarly under similar conditions, or (3) differently. And if a normative theory asserts that equality is a good thing, it will present a theory for how to achieve it. Sexual equality, as an idea, is a complex issue. (The same is true of racial equal- ity.) We must ask, Is sexual equality a biological fact? What does that mean? And is that important for an ethical policy? Let us look at what it means fi rst. Are men and women biologically equal? We all know that, physically, most men are taller and stronger than most women, but that doesn’t mean individual women can’t be taller and stronger than individual men. In nature there is such a thing as sexual di- morphism, meaning that the two sexes of a species look very different, with one sex usually being much bigger than the other. (A consequence of dimorphism is usually that the bigger sex dominates the smaller sex and that one individual of the bigger

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sex can have many mates of the smaller sex, but not vice versa. Where the sexes are of the same size there are usually lifelong monogamous relationships and equal partnerships.) So do humans have sexual dimorphism? Not nearly to the extreme that gorillas do but slightly more than bonobo chimpanzees do; gorilla society is male-dominated, but bonobo chimpanzees, our closest relatives on this earth, have a gender-equal society with a tendency toward matriarchy. Biologically, there is no reason to assume that it is natural for one human gender to dominate the other, but neither can we conclude that we have an obvious natural tendency to be completely equal partners. But are we then biologically equal when it comes to the intellect ? The view- points on male and female intelligence are diverse, stretching from the old assump- tion that men are logical and women are not, to the assumption shared by many modern people that if we are intellectually different at all it is merely a subtle dif- ference, to the view that women’s intellectual style is superior to that of men. What exactly would intellectual equality mean? That we reach the same results when faced with the same problem? Or that we reach the same results the same way when faced with the same problem? Recent studies of the human brain have revealed that men and women actually use their brains differently when dealing with the same math problems, but they generally reach the same results in the same amount of time. But whether we talk about physical or intellectual equality, some philosophers would call out a warning: Looking for actual equality is one thing, and perhaps a positive one, but if we intend our policy of gender equality to rest on a foundation of what we think is actual, biological equality, then we may be in trouble, because what if scientists someday prove that biologically we really are not the same at all? Then our reason for gender equality has disappeared, and we may slide back into some form of gender discrimination against women or against men. Better to forget about looking for actual similarities and concentrate on making a policy based on what we would like to see happen: Instead of using descriptive means to make us politically equal, let us use normative means, spelling out how we ought to treat each other. Remember from Chapter 5 that if we try to go from fact to policy, from an “is” to an “ought,” then we are committing the naturalistic fallacy, basing a policy on fact without adding a moral premise. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take biology into account when we establish policies. The idea of sexual, or rather gender, equality is so important now that we have antidiscrimination laws against “sexism.” In other words, we believe that regardless of whether equality between the genders is a natural fact, it should be a cultural institution. Box 12.3 explores one aspect of normative equality: The issue of women in combat.

Women’s Historical Role in the Public Sphere

Gender equality is, of course, a novel idea in Western history. Until the mid– nineteenth century it was common practice in Western culture to assume that male and female natures were essentially different in their functions, aspirations, and po- tential, and that male nature was somehow more normal than female nature. It was

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Should women be soldiers? Whether you agree or not, the fact is that women are in the armed forces, and have been, in some capacity, since before World War I, starting with the creation of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908. It wasn’t until 1948, how- ever, that women got permanent status in the armed forces with President Truman’s signing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. In 1967 President Johnson made it theoreti- cally possible for women to advance to the top. Today women constitute nearly 15 percent of the U.S. Army, but only 6 percent of the Ma- rine Corps. However, those Marine women are a fi ercely proud bunch: They boast three gener- als, and one of them, Angie Salinas, became the fi rst woman leader of a boot camp, as overseer of the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot from 2006 until 2009. In recognition of the fact that women have actually been serving in combat situations in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Mili- tary Leadership Diversity Commission, cre- ated in 2009, recommend in its report to the Pentagon in 2011 that the “Combat Exclusion Policy” be terminated, and women allowed to be trained for, and serve in combat. In 2012 the Pentagon issued a revised policy, allowing women increased access to front-line positions. The debate continues, and generally includes the following arguments. Those in favor of allowing women in combat argue that

• It is a natural progression toward complete gender equality in a modern society.

• Qualifi ed and well-trained women can be as effective, and as brave, as their male counterparts.

• Many women want to serve their country in combat; and if they qualify, it would be unfair to exclude them.

• Since combat experience is necessary for offi cers’ advancement within the military, it is discriminatory to exclude women offi cers—it maintains a glass ceiling. (That argument seems to be outdated, since combat experience is apparently no lon- ger a requirement for males to advance, either.)

Those against allowing women in combat argue that

• Women simply aren’t “qualifi ed,” except for perhaps a very few. The training criteria for a combat soldier include carrying a heavy backpack plus weapon during a forced march, and the vast majority of even very motivated women just can’t do that. And if standards are lowered so more women qualify, the effectiveness of the forces will be diminished, and soldiers put in unneces- sarily dangerous situations.

• It is dangerous for the male soldiers to have female comrades-in-arms: Because of a natural chivalry and an instinct to pro- tect, the male soldiers will be more focused on protecting their female colleagues and may become distracted from their battle training.

• Women POWs are in greater danger of being raped than male POWs, and threats or violence against the female POWs could become an element in the enemy’s interro- gation techniques, wearing down the resis- tance of the male POWs.

• It is simply uncivilized to have women in combat.

In your view, which arguments carry the most weight? Can you think of additional arguments for or against women in combat? In Chapter 11 you read about Private Jessica Lynch’s ordeal

Box 12.3 W O M E N I N C O M B A T ?

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and rescue as a POW during the war in Iraq. Two other women were captured in the same incident during the early weeks of the war:

Private Lori Piestewa, Lynch’s friend, and Private Shoshana Johnson, also an army maintenance soldier. John- son made it back injured, but alive, while Piestewa died from her wounds. None of these three women had been trained for combat except for a few hours of basic weapons training: They were all members of a mainte- nance unit, but even so, they found themselves in a confrontation with the enemy. There is little doubt that they acted as soldiers with backbone and courage, and some advocates of women in combat have argued that their fortitude proves that women can be good combat soldiers. Others have pointed out that their ordeal proves what a thoroughly bad idea it is for military women to be present, not only in combat, but anywhere near the front lines. Has the story of these three women changed, or perhaps so-

lidifi ed, your view about allowing women to be trained for combat?

In March 2003 several women soldiers were among the prison- ers of war in Iraq: You have already read about Jessica Lynch in Chapter 11; her close friend and comrade in arms, Private Lori Piestewa (right), a Hopi Indian, was killed in the ambush where Jessica was injured and taken prisoner. In the same ambush, Private Shoshana Johnson (left) became the fi rst female black prisoner of war in U.S. war history. She, along with several male soldiers, was captured during the U.S. advance on Baghdad; but with the collapse of the Iraqi government, their captors vanished, and they were rescued by the advancing U.S. forces.

not thought of as necessarily better, for, as I mentioned earlier, many men seemed to believe that women had higher moral standards; but it was considered more important in the sense that male nature was more representative of the human spe- cies than female nature was. What was that assumption based on? Today we might say prejudice, but it can’t be dismissed as easily as that, because for a great many thinkers, objectivity was an important ideal. They tried to describe things as they saw them, not as they believed things ought to be, nor as they might appear to an undiscerning eye. And what they saw was that few women had any role to play in public life: There were few women politicians, few women artists, few women scientists. But why were there so few women in public life? The answer is tentative; not all the facts are in yet. It seems obvious, though, that a person’s contribution to what we call public life is greatly dependent on that person feeling called or wel- come as a contributor. If no one expects or wants you to become a good politician or mathematician or sculptor, you might not think of trying. Encouragement and

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expectation are major factors in such choices. On the other hand, if it appears that you are destined for a certain task, you might not question that either. For most women (until the arrival of dependable birth control), motherhood, several times over, was their destiny. And for those familiar with the demands of large families, it does not come as news that the person in charge of the private sphere, the home, has precious little time for anything else, unless she can afford domestic help. Indeed, throughout history—Western history as well as world history—most cultural con- tributions by individual women were made by those who did not play the role of homemaker.

“Woman’s Work”

An interesting question is why women’s contributions to the private sphere are rarely discussed. It’s certainly true that when women could not own property, vote, or hold a job without the permission of a guardian, many women still had consider- able power within the four walls of their home. They managed the bookkeeping and purchases, planned and prepared meals for the household, educated the children, and kept things running on the farm—a full-time job in itself. Why were those man- agement skills not considered important? In an odd way, they were; it is probably our modern-day prejudice to think that they weren’t. A young woman chosen as a spouse was expected to have those skills, and “woman’s work” was a vitally impor- tant social factor. But in the public sphere, women had no place and were not con- sidered potential contributors until almost the end of the nineteenth century. (That assertion, of course, refers to women from middle- and upper-middle-class back- grounds; many working-class women have, for as long as there has been a working class, generally participated in the public sphere, simply because they have had no choice. If a widow with small children didn’t enter the workforce, her children might starve to death—and she too.) Even today, many people accept the idea that the public sphere is the vital one—perhaps because work in the public sphere is paid for and work in the private sphere generally is not. However, asking whether women’s work has been valued may in itself be choosing the viewpoint of the public sphere in which men have traditionally determined values; women have traditionally always valued one another’s work, learned from it, criticized it, improved it, and shared it. From a traditional woman’s point of view, the question of public (male) recognition for her work may not be the most important question: What may matter more is re- ceiving recognition and appreciation for her work from her peers in the community, other women. Another factor must be mentioned here. In early times, having women re- main outside the public sphere was thought by most men (and women too) to be a way of protecting women; they were spared the unpleasantness and insecurity of the world of affairs. That is the viewpoint of the Arab fundamentalist culture, where much the same pattern prevails today. Some critics believe it can be in- terpreted as a way of treating women as property (namely the property of their fathers and husbands)—as an investment in the next generation and as a working resource.

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The Goddess Theory: Women Before Patriarchy

This pattern of women being excluded from the public sphere may seem so ancient that we believe it has always existed. However, a theory advanced by many feminist scholars today is that the subjection of women to men (which we know as a historical fact going back at least three thousand years) may not have been the ancient order of things. You may remember that John Stuart Mill was a nineteenth-century advocate of women’s rights (see Chapter 5). In his book The Subjection of Women (1869) he says that we don’t know what it would be like for women not to be subjected to men because they always have been. But he may well have been wrong, because archaeo- logical evidence (artifacts and written documents) now points to the possibility of women having had far more infl uence in early Middle Eastern and African cultures than we used to think. In what is now Turkey, there appears to have been civiliza- tions more than ten thousand years ago who revered a mother goddess of fertility; in Greek and Middle Eastern legends, we fi nd ancient myths of a creator goddess and powerful priestesses and queens. Similarly, African legends suggest a strong memory of a mother goddess and of women who had much social power in their communi- ties. Whether we should call those ancient cultures matriarchal is open to question because we have no evidence that they were ruled by women, but there is tenta- tive evidence that until some gradual cultural change toward patriarchy happened around thirty-fi ve hundred years ago, women in the Old World had higher social standing than they did later. Part of that social standing may have derived from the local religions’ belief in a creator goddess rather than a creator god. Further challenges to the universality of patriarchy have come from other parts of the world: In the American Indian tradition, women were considered respected, full members of the community with rights to have their own opinions and to choose a husband and divorce him. Furthermore, in Eastern tribes it was not uncommon for the chief to be a woman. However, according to American Indian historian Paula Gunn Allen, the European settlers rarely reported that fact, and history books have most often referred to those chiefs as being male. At various times and places in human history, women seem to have had considerably more social infl uence than they have had in the Western world of the past several thousand years except for the past fi ve decades. A place where goddess worship may have lasted longer than most other places, and where women may have had comparatively more infl uence, was Ireland before the advent of Christianity with Saint Patrick in 435. And for centuries after Christi- anity took hold, the high public standing of women that was a legacy of the goddess religion remained a factor in Ireland. Saint Brigit of Kildare (453–525) was raised by the pagan Druid priesthood but was attracted to Christianity. She was ordained as a bishop by mistake, instead of as a nun, as a result of the wrong oath being adminis- tered. It initiated a new tradition, and from then on until the Vikings arrived several hundred years later, women in Ireland could become bishops. Irish bishops gener- ally had a more gender-egalitarian view of women than the rest of Europe did, and when in 900 a European bishops’ council convened to decide whether women had souls, the yes votes won—by one vote. That vote came from an Irish bishop.

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A copied page from the lost original encyclopedia by Abbess Herrad of Landsberg/Hohenbourg, Hortus deliciarum (Garden of Delight). A highly educated and talented woman, Herrad authored parts of the encyclopedia and edited the rest. Here we see her vision of philosophy with the seven liberal arts sur- rounding the spirit of Philosophy, Socrates, and Plato. The circle says that Philosophy “studies the secrets of the element and of all things. What she discovers, she retains in her memory. And she puts it all in writing, in order to transmit it to her students.”

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Losing Ground: The Middle Ages

In the European convents of the early Middle Ages, women received an education that allowed them to become medical practitioners, illustrators, composers, and writers, aside from having clerical powers equal to the male clergy of the monasteries. One such woman was Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), a German abbess. She was given to the Church at the age of eight and began having visions at an early age. She wrote a number of books on God’s plan for humanity, two about her visions, and another two on science and nature. She composed liturgical songs, and wrote what is recognized as the fi rst morality play about the battle between good and evil, Ordo Virtuem. She founded her own convent, Rupertsberg, where her music was performed. Toward the end of her life she offered her writings to the new University of Paris, only to suffer the indignity of having them rejected on the grounds that she was a woman. And in the late 1100s Abbess Herrad of Landsberg /Hohenbourg put together an encyclopedia, Hortus deliciarum ( Garden of Delight ), which was to serve young novices at the convent, teach- ing them about philosophy and theology. It contained songs, poems, and illustrations, some of them created by Herrad herself. The manuscript was destroyed during a fi re in 1870, but enough partial copies remain that we get a vivid impression of it. In the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, women lost ground within the Catho- lic Church. New policies deprived abbesses of their right to hear confessions, and convents that had functioned as hospitals and social safety nets for the community were closed down or transformed into isolated cloisters. No secular schools had been founded yet, and young women were now barred from a religious education. The reason may seem strangely arbitrary to a modern person: To be accepted as a student, receive an education, and communicate with God, the young acolyte’s head had to be shaved into a tonsure. But according to Scripture (in particular Paul’s fi rst letter to the Corinthians), women not only weren’t allowed to shave their heads but also were sup- posed to hide their hair under a veil when in the presence of God. And since you can’t have a tonsure, and thus be eligible for a religious education, while having a full head of hair and wearing a veil, the tonsure policy kept women out of schools. Even so, some nuns, such as Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, rose to intellectual prominence (see Box 12.4).

The Rise of Modern Feminism

We often hear feminism referred to as “fi rst wave,” “second wave,” and “third wave.” Those chronological terms form a time line for awareness of women’s social situation. (Box 12.6 gives a brief overview of this timeline.) The fi rst wave generally refers to the feminist movement in the West from its early beginnings in the seventeenth century to the accomplishment of its most urgent goal, the right for women to vote. In 1869 women in Wyoming gained the right to vote, but general suffrage for women wasn’t obtained in the United States until 1920. In the meantime, New Zealand women had been included as voters in 1893; in 1902 Australia followed suit. Norway joined the list in 1913, and Denmark in 1915. So, too, did Canada, England, Germany, and Austria after World War I, in 1918. Sweden gave women the right to vote in 1921, but it wasn’t until 1944 that French women could go to the polls, and Mexico fol- lowed in 1947. Switzerland waited until 1971, and in 1994 black women gained full

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suffrage in South Africa. In 2004 Afghani women became voters, and in 2011 women in Saudi Arabia fi nally acquired voting rights as the last country on earth. (However, at the time of this writing, they still can’t drive cars.) What began as furtive discus- sions four hundred years ago has still not reached full global implementation.

Early Feminism in France and England

A very early speaker for the rights of women was the French thinker Poulain de la Barre, who in 1673 argued that men and women are fundamentally similar because they have the same powers of reasoning. Poulain believed women should have access to all occupations in society, even as generals in the army and leaders of Parliament. Few people paid much attention to Poulain, however; he remained both unique and unknown as a seventeenth-century feminist. During the French Revolution (begun in 1789), things changed considerably in France. Women began to let their voices be heard in the pre-Revolution debate: Olympe de Gouges wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in 1791, in which she argued for complete equality between men and women, including rights to vote, to own property, to serve in the military, and to hold offi ce. During the Revolution she wrote over thirty pamphlets and considered herself a revolutionary, but since she was against the kill- ing of the royal family, she was targeted as an anti-revolutionary and was beheaded during the Reign of Terror in 1793 at the age of forty-eight. Another high-profi le

In seventeenth-century Mexico, still a colony of Spain, the concept of women’s rights was advocated and, in a sense, embodied by a nun, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz (1651–1695). Born Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, she was the illegitimate child of a Spanish fa- ther and a Creole mother. A child prodigy, she educated herself by voraciously reading books in her grandfather’s library. At the age of fi fteen, she was introduced in court to the viceroy and his wife, who took her on as a lady-in-waiting and created an intellectual environment for her as entertainment for the court. At twenty she entered a convent but continued her intellec- tual pursuits, and over the years she amassed a library consisting of over four thousand vol- umes. Sor Juana wrote secular love poetry, songs, and plays, including comedies, received commissions, and lived to see her works pub- lished both in Mexico and in Spain. But with

the departure of the viceroy and his family for Spain, she lost her protection against the pressures of the Catholic Church to conform to traditional convent life. Her professional struggle for her rights as an intellectual within the Church began in 1691: When attacked by a bishop whose sermon she had criticized, she wrote a statement that has earned her the title of the fi rst feminist in the Americas, Respuesta a Sor Filotea (“Response to Sor Filotea,” the bishop’s pseudonym), in which she referred to the culture of Mexican women and to a woman’s right to disagree with authorities. But shortly afterward she gave away all her books and artifacts, and in a statement signed in her own blood she resolved to dedicate the rest of her life to helping the poor. In 1695, when she was forty-four, she was helping infected nuns during an epidemic, caught the illness herself, and died.

Box 12.4 S O R J U A N A I N E Z D E L A C R U Z

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woman was Madame Zepherine d’Epinay, who believed that women and men have the same nature and the same constitution and will display different virtues and vices only if they are brought up that way; any differentiation is due to social pressure, nothing else. Her ideas inspired the philosopher the marquis de Condorcet, who in 1792 suggested that education should be available to women because both men and women were, primarily, members of the human race. Condorcet’s opponent, Tal- leyrand, who was inspired by the social critic Jean-Jacques Rousseau, managed to put a stop to those ideas, which, it seems, were too radical even for the revolutionar- ies. Thus the view of Rousseau, which had become popular in the late eighteenth century—that men should live in a democracy of equals but that their women be- longed at home as intelligent but subordinate partners to their spouses—became the offi cial view of the gender issue in France of the early nineteenth century. In eighteenth-century England there were voices—male as well as female—that argued for the possibility of a different order. The British philosopher Mary Wollstone- craft (1759–1797) was one of the few women of the eighteenth century who directly addressed women’s situation. (See Box 12.5 for a short list of other women ethicists be- fore the twentieth century.) In A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), she suggested not only that it is unfair to women to socialize them to be uneducated, unthinking creatures who are only eager to please but also that it is unfair to men, because although a man may fall in love with that kind of woman, he certainly won’t want to live with her. After all, what will the two have in common once the seduction is over and they are married? No, Wollstonecraft wrote, women should have the same opportunities as men. If they don’t measure up, men will have reason to claim superiority; but to apply two different value systems—one that says what is proper for men and one that says what is proper for women—is to make a mockery of the concept of virtue itself:

I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refi nement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt. . . . Besides, the woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind will, by managing her family and practicing various virtues, become the friend, and not the humble dependent of her husband.

English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) wrote  A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which was much ridiculed at the time by male scholars but would have a lasting infl uence. Wollstonecraft died in childbirth, giving life to a second Mary Wollstonecraft, who, under her married name, Shelley, was to give life to another kind of creature with the story of Frankenstein and his monster.

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Carol Gilligan is right in saying that the famous and infl uential moral theories within the West- ern philosophical tradition have until recently all been expressed by male thinkers. That does not mean, however, that there have been no women moral thinkers in Western history aside from Mary Wollstonecraft and Harriet Taylor Mill; here is a small selection from a list of more than thirty names in the Encyclo- pedia of Ethics of women ethicists (Western as well as Eastern) from the earliest years of philosophy to the nineteenth century. I don’t wish to imply that women’s contributions to ethics until the twentieth century can be con- tained in a box. However, most of these names are not generally well known, and before the twentieth century women thinkers had very little infl uence in philosophy. This list demon- strates that there were women who could and did think and write during times when women were discouraged or even banned from taking part in intellectual life. In all probability there were many more thinking and writing women than history has recorded. Phintys of Sparta (c. 420 B.C.E.) held that it was not unfi tting for women to philosophize and that courage, justice, and wisdom were common to women as well as men; in the tra- dition of Greek moral thinking (which you will recognize from Aristotle, who was not born yet when Phintys wrote her book, On the Moderation of Women ), she recommends mod- eration in all things as a virtue for women. Makrina of Neocaesaria (c. 300 C.E.) so im- pressed her brother, the Bishop of Nyssa, that he cited her moral philosophy in his own writ- ings. Makrina was familiar with Plato’s philoso- phy and taught that women were created in God’s image and had rational souls; with a ra- tional soul, one is capable of becoming morally virtuous and thus eligible for entry into heaven after death, she believed.

Murasaki Shikibu (978–c. 1031) was a Japa- nese courtier who, in her novel Genji Monogatari ( The Tale of Genji ), which is considered the fi rst real novel, led her main character, the woman Ukifune, to a realization of freedom and moral re- sponsibility in the face of existential dread. Today this story is seen as an early exploration of the key themes of existentialism as they were later defi ned in the Western world of the twentieth century. Christine de Pizan (1365–1431) wrote a book, Cité des Dames ( The City of Women ), in which she envisioned women living in a com- munity to protect themselves from physical and moral harm. She argued that oppression of women was counterproductive to the improve- ment of society and that women should strive to avoid activities that dull their intellect, since they were limited by certain social roles. Marie le Jars de Gournay (1565–1645) was the editor of Montaigne’s Essays and wrote in a work of her own, Egalité des Hommes et des Femmes ( Equality Between Men and Women ), that women are equal to men in their capacity for moral reasoning and action. She believed that sexual differences are related exclusively to re- production and have otherwise no bearing on male or female nature. Mary Astell (1666–1731) worked on a syn- thesis of the traditions of Locke and Descartes and believed that reason ought to govern our passions. The only way to accomplish that, she said, was to have universal education for women as well as for men. Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825–1921) was the fi rst ordained American woman. She was a prolifi c writer of philosophy and theol- ogy and maintained that women and men make moral judgments differently; in a forerunner of Gilligan’s argument about an ethic of justice and an ethic of care, Blackwell claimed that women bring compassion to justice and caring to the concept of rights.

Box 12.5 W O M E N M O R A L P H I L O S O P H E R S

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We generally talk about the development of feminism in America as a phenomenon in three waves: “fi rst,” “second,” and “third” wave. The fi rst wave is considered as having its offi cial starting point in 1848 with the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and culminat- ing with the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, which granted women the right to vote. The philosophy and goals of the fi rst wave of femi- nism were straightforward: rights for women to self- determination; rights to inherit and own property, even in marriage (as opposed to the ownership of one’s inherited or earned property passing to one’s husband); rights to raise one’s children; and, above all, suffrage (the right to vote). The second wave was ushered in with the publication of Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique in 1963. (In France, a similar reaction followed the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in 1949; see chapter text). For most feminists of the second wave, the primary goal was the creation of an equal- opportunity society without discrimination because of one’s sex—a society in which women, as well as men, would be able to freely choose their way of life and occupations; a common focus was on the up- bringing of boys and girls, attempting to change the stereotypical gender roles to a more egalitar- ian pattern. (See the discussion of classical femi- nism in the next section.) For all second-wave

feminists, a common goal was a complete and discrimination-free access for women to any education or profession they might be interested in and qualifi ed for. Some feminists see that job as accomplished in the early twenty-fi rst century, but others believe there is still much work to be done to achieve complete gender equality. The beginning of the third wave is sometimes identifi ed with the publication of Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (1982; see chapter text), and sometimes with the publication of Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991). Other events that helped start the new wave were the 1991 Senate hearings into charges that Supreme Court nominee Clar- ence Thomas had sexually harassed law professor Anita Hill, his former aide. Another was the 1992 election, which saw a large number of women elected to offi ce, perhaps as a result of the much- publicized hearings. The philosophy of the third wave is less clearly defi ned than those of the fi rst two waves: Radical feminism focuses on identify- ing and eliminating the roots of still-existing dis- crimination; other third-wave feminists focus on specifi c issues, such as feminist environmentalism, easier access to child care for working women, and combating racial and economic discrimination. A new form of feminism has appeared in recent years, but it is too soon to say whether it will be included in the third wave: conservative feminism. We look at that phenomenon in Box 12.7.

Box 12.6 F I R S T - , S E C O N D - , A N D T H I R D - W A V E F E M I N I S M : A B R I E F O V E R V I E W

In the nineteenth century John Stuart Mill, inspired by his longtime intellectual friend (and later wife) Harriet Taylor, wrote about how women’s as well as men’s characters are molded by society:

All women are brought up from the earliest years in the belief that their ideal of char- acter is the very opposite to that of men; not self-will, and government by self-control, but submission, and yielding to the control of others. All the moralities tell them that it is the duty of women, and all the current sentimentalities that it is their nature, to live for others.

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Under different social circumstances, Mill says, we would see women acting no longer as the full-time slaves of their husbands but as independent individuals with original intellectual ideas to contribute to society. If women are capable of fulfi lling social functions, they should be free to do so. If it is impossible for a woman to do certain things because of her nature, then what need is there to prohibit her from doing them? The old saying “‘ought’ implies ‘can’” applies: You can’t tell someone she ought (or ought not) to do something unless she is actually able to do it. Mill does believe that male and female qualities in general are not the same—that men and women are usually good at different things—but that from a moral point of view those qualities should be considered equally important. So what might Mill say about the current controversy as to whether women soldiers should be allowed in combat? Probably that most women would prefer not to and would not qualify but that those who want to and who do qualify should be allowed to do so. At the end of

Feminism has for a long time been considered a liberal phenomenon, a focus on women’s right to self-expression and fl ourishing while at the same time identifying the source of that freedom as a change in government policies, guaranteeing freedoms for women. What you’ll see as “classi- cal feminism” in this book is often called “liberal feminism” in other books. The standard feminist attitude toward women’s rise in public life has been, throughout most of the twentieth century, that such women should always be supported in their effort to break the glass ceiling, because (1) it was considered a positive thing in itself to see a woman achieve a position that would previ- ously have been reserved for men, and because (2) it was a tacit assumption that such a woman would agree with the general liberal views of most feminists. So it has been a challenge to feminists to fi nd that women from other areas of the po- litical spectrum have found a voice in today’s politics. Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, presenting herself as having strong conservative values, was the fi rst Republican vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 election, and Palin has continued to shape the public debate, describing herself as being a feminist. Michelle Bachman, congresswoman from Minnesota, who ran as presidential candidate for the GOP in 2011, also

supports conservative values. Political commen- tator and author Ann Coulter comes from a con- servative point of view and has a large readership. Columnist Star Parker and commentator Michelle Malkin are also eloquent women with conserva- tive values, and The View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck is usually considered the conservative voice on the show. If these women, and others like them, are in favor of women participating in public life, women having equal access to education, as well to as the job market in jobs they are qualifi ed for, and women having a choice whether they wish to raise families, be professionals, or both—can such women be feminists? Or does one have to subscribe to liberal moral values in order to be part of the feminist movement? What if such women are pro-life, and not pro-choice? Some have suggested that we are in effect seeing a new “third wave” of feminism, or even a fourth wave: the rise of conservative women. Others see their political infl uence as not feminist at all, but rather a throwback to patriarchal (male-dominated) ways of thinking. Perhaps we need to distinguish between feminism as essentially a liberal move- ment, and other kinds of reform movements ad- vocating an equal role for women? If not, then we have to conclude that feminists can come in many kinds of political colors.

Box 12.7 C A N A C O N S E R V A T I V E B E A F E M I N I S T ?

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SALLY FORTH © 1997 King Features Syndicate

Classical feminism taught that if gender differences are perpetuated, it is to the detriment of women’s freedom. One of the traditions discarded by classical feminists was chivalry: men holding doors for women, pulling out chairs, and so on. The underlying assumption, said classical feminism, was that women are too weak or stupid to do things themselves, so chivalry was, in effect, demeaning to women. Now, in the age of third-wave feminism, opinion is divided as to traditional male chivalry. What do you think—can men be chivalrous to women without being sexists? Should women also hold doors for men? Would that be a veiled comment on a man’s weakness?

the chapter you can read Harriet Taylor Mill’s own argument for why women should be allowed in the workforce.

Classical, Difference, and Radical Feminism

Today the idea of gender equality has several facets. Feminists generally agree that there should be gender equality, but they don’t necessarily agree on what is fe- male and male human nature, or on what exactly our policies should be to combat gender discrimination. The philosophies of feminism are in a process of develop- ment, responding to the pressures of the past and present and the challenges of the future. One facet is classical feminism (sometimes referred to as liberal feminism) , which calls for men and women to be considered as persons fi rst and gendered be- ings second. Another is difference feminism, which holds that women and men pos- sess fundamentally different qualities and that both genders should learn from each other. A facet of feminism that sometimes has received bad press is radical feminism; although some radical feminists indeed seem to be militant or extremist, the main point of radical feminism is not to mount the barricades but to seek out and expose the root of the problem of gender discrimination. (“Root” is radix in Latin; hence, radical feminism.) And then there is a breakout form of feminism severely criticized by many feminists that labels itself equity feminism: An equity feminist holds that the battle for equality has been won, that we should not think of women as victims of patriarchy any longer, and that we can now adopt any kind of gender roles we like because gender discrimination is by and large a thing of the past. (Box 12.8 discusses equity feminism.)

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In a highly controversial book, Who Stole Femi- nism? (1994), Christina Hoff Sommers (see Chapter 10) argues that feminism has been split into two movements: the “equity feminists,” wanting equal opportunity for women and men, and the “gender feminists,” “resenter feminists,” or “feminist radicals,” who, as Sommers sees it, have male-bashing as their main agenda. Som- mers sees herself as an equity feminist. She also uses the terms “new feminists” and “gynocentric feminism” to describe the type of feminism she believes has done the movement a grave dis- service by creating an atmosphere of general mistrust of men and of women who work with, support, or admire them. Here Sommers doesn’t align herself exactly with any of the facets of fem- inism that we have discussed; although radical feminism comes closest to what she calls gen- der feminism. Sommers also fi nds that differ- ence feminism has elements of misandry in that women’s approaches are considered superior to those of men. And classical feminism, although being the form of feminism that probably comes closest to what Sommers calls equity feminism, also has elements of gender feminism for Som- mers: Simone de Beauvoir, she says, had no in- tention of letting women choose gender roles freely but wanted to dictate the proper upbring- ing and life choices for women. Among contem- porary gender feminists, Sommers counts Susan Faludi, Marilyn French, Carolyn Heilbrun, and Catharine MacKinnon. Sommers writes:

Once I get into the habit of regarding women as a subjugated gender, I’m primed to be alarmed, angry, and resentful of men as oppressors of women. I am also prepared to believe the words about them and the harm they cause to women. I may even be ready to fabricate atrocities. . . . Resenter feminists like Faludi, French, Heilbrun and MacKinnon speak of backlash, siege, and an undeclared war against

women. But the condition they describe is mythic—with no foundation in the facts of contemporary American life.

Since women now have their political and per- sonal freedom, says Sommers, they should be making use of it, instead of judging the authen- ticity of each other’s attitudes:

But women are no longer disenfranchised, and their preferences are being taken into ac- count. Nor are they now taught that they are subordinate or that a subordinate role for them is fi tting and proper. . . . Since women today can no longer be regarded as the victims of an undemocratic indoctrination, we must regard their preferences as “authentic.” Any other atti- tude toward American women is unacceptably patronizing and profoundly illiberal.

The feminists Sommers criticizes generally re- spond that Sommers herself has misunderstood the goals and nature of feminism; although the overt oppression of previous times is over, it has now become covert and internalized, and it lives in the hearts of the critics of feminism, women as well as men. Although opportuni- ties have opened to women, many women still grow up believing that the masculine cultural world is their only option; it takes a long time for such wounds to heal, and they don’t heal without active interference. For that reason, and for their own sake, women must be shown that equality is still far away. So when Sommers says women have the right to choose a life in which they work at home, raising children, or work in a male-dominated environment or when she says they have the right to enjoy ro- mance literature in which men are strong and women are seduced, then Sommers must her- self have internalized the traditional male view of what a woman’s proper place is, according to some critics.

Box 12.8 C H R I S T I N A H O F F S O M M E R S ’ S E Q U I T Y F E M I N I S M

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Sommers responds by claiming that gender feminism simply does not represent the view- point of most women today—women who are politically aware and concerned with gen- der equality—in other words, feminists. Most women today, says Sommers, have access to the professions of their choice and want to lead lives in which they have friendly relations with male coworkers and loving relations with male

partners. Many want families, and some even want to live the traditional life of a homemaker, and they are not interested in being represented by women who tell them they have a false con- sciousness. As a fellow equity feminist, Som- mers cites the author and fellow philosopher Iris Murdoch, who believed in a “culture of human- ity,” not in a “new female ghetto” of misandric feminism.

Classical Feminism: Beauvoir and Androgyny

For those taking the view that men and women should be considered as persons fi rst, gender differences are primarily cultural. Biological differences are signifi cant only in terms of procreation, they say; apart from birthing and breastfeeding infants, which can be done only by women, the sexual differences are irrelevant. Culture has shaped men and women, and a cultural change could therefore allow for another type of gender: the androgynous type. In her groundbreaking work The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir, one of the most powerful voices for equal education and equal opportunities in the twen- tieth century, accuses the philosophical tradition of seeing man as the “typical” human being, so woman thus becomes “atypical.” For man, woman becomes “the Other,” an alien being who helps man defi ne himself through her alienness, and with whom he communicates on an everyday basis but who never becomes “one of the boys.” Woman, who has been placed in this situation for millennia, has also come to believe she is atypical. The female anatomy is seen as a psychologically determining factor, whereas the male anatomy is not. In other words, women do what they do because they are women; men do what they do because they are nor- mal. But this is a cultural fact, not a natural one, says Beauvoir. And the only way a woman can become authentic is to shed her role as “deviant” and become a true human being by rejecting the traditional female role. Society can assist in this pro- cess by treating little boys and girls the same—by giving them the same education and the same subsequent opportunities. Here we must remember that Beauvoir was engaged in issues other than feminism; she was, with her partner Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the strongest voices in the philosophical existentialist movement of the mid–twentieth century (see Chapter 10). Existentialism posits that there is no human nature; any attempt at claiming we have to do or be something is noth- ing but a poor excuse for not wanting to make a choice: bad faith. If we carry this over into Beauvoir’s theory of feminism, we understand what she means when she says that a woman must shed her culturally given role as the second sex: There

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is no female human nature any more than there is any human nature in general; we must fi ght the cultural traps of gender roles and their assumption that this is how we have to be, because that is nothing but a poor excuse for not making our own choices. (However, if we should want to make the choice of traditional gender roles, Beauvoir would have little patience with us, since she believed the choice of gender freedom is best made if the traditional option of stay-at-home-mom is not available to women. Many contemporary feminists fi nd that this hardly constitutes true freedom of choice.) It is against the background of the traditional male philosophical approach to the gender question that Beauvoir criticizes Emmanuel Levinas and his view of the Other as essentially feminine (see Chapter 10). To Beauvoir, this is nothing but old- fashioned reactionary male-oriented thinking, because for a classical feminist like her, the attitude of seeing the sexes as fundamentally different also means that one is generally dominating the other; when Levinas praises feminine qualities as the nur- turing and welcoming element in both men and women, the classical feminist still sees that as discrimination (against men as well as against women) because it persists in stereotyping the typically feminine as nurturing. Until women begin to think of themselves as a group, Beauvoir says, they will believe that they are abnormal human beings. And as long as men and women re- ceive different educations and different treatment from society, woman will not feel responsible for the state of the world but will regard herself as men regard her—as an overgrown child. Of course women are weak, Beauvoir says. Of course they don’t use male logic (here we must remember that she is talking about uneducated women before World War II). Of course they are religious to the point of superstition. Of course they have no sense of history, and of course they accept authority. Of course they cry a lot over little things. They may even be lazy, sensual, servile, frivolous, utilitarian, materialistic, and hysterical. They may, in short, be all that some male thinkers thought they were. But why are women all these things? Because they have no power except by subterfuge. They have no education, so they have never been taught about the cause and effect of history and the relative powers of authority. They are caught up in a never-ending stream of housework, which causes them to be practically oriented. They nag because they realize they have no power to change their situation. They are sensual because they are bored. In The Second Sex Beauvoir says, “The truth is that when a woman is engaged in an enterprise worthy of a human being, she is quite able to show herself as active, effective, taciturn—and as ascetic— as a man.” (See Box 12.9 for Beauvoir’s infl uence on modern philosophy.) At the end of the chapter you can read an excerpt from this book as well as a summary of one of Beauvoir’s short stories, “The Woman Destroyed.” So if we change our culture, we will change what has for so long been consid- ered female nature—and with it, probably also male nature. We will create people who are responsible human beings above all and who will respect each other for that reason. This philosophy was adopted by many late-twentieth-century feminists, including Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and Joyce Trebilcot. The question is, Can we choose our gender at all? Obviously we can’t choose our sex (not without going through major surgery, anyway). But the term gender also

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Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986), a feminist and an existentialist, was long considered a minor thinker by the philosophical community. One reason was that she was Jean-Paul Sartre’s “signifi cant other,” and her books, such as The Second Sex, show considerable infl uence from Sartre’s ideas. However, most philosophers now recognize that many of the fundamental ideas of existentialism came about through discussions between Sartre and Beauvoir, and many ideas fi rst published by Sartre may well have originated during those discussions. There is even some sus- picion that Sartre occasionally published ideas by Beauvoir under his own name. True or not, this new attitude reveals a changing perspective on women in philosophy. In the twenty-fi rst cen- tury, Beauvoir’s infl uence in the area of gender inequality has turned out to be just as viable as Sartre’s philosophy. Beauvoir is primarily inter- ested in the existence of woman as a cultural phe- nomenon; she analyzes woman’s subjugation in a man’s world—a situation that was far more com- mon in the mid–twentieth century than now. She hopes that instead of a world where woman is considered deviant and man normal, we will have a society of human beings, not just males and females, and people will interact with each other equally as productive, authentic beings. Beauvoir

has come under heavy criticism from some femi- nists for not realizing that she herself regards man as the norm and wants women to be treated and to act like men, rather than rejoice in their inher- ent female nature. It appears that Beauvoir her- self decided to live a child-free life to escape the female stereotype.

Box 12.9 T H E O T H E R : S I M O N E D E B E A U V O I R

encompasses our social roles as male and female. Can we, then, decide which social role we wish to adapt—which gender we wish to be—or do biological factors exist that prevent people from exercising gender choice? In other words, is our gender determined by our biology to a greater extent than people who advocate androgyny realize? In Toronto, as I write this, a small child is being raised by (presumably) loving parents. The child’s name is Storm, and the parents have refused to reveal his or her sex. The child is not an intersex person, and has apparently a clear sexual identity, but for now the parents are deliberately raising a unisex child, at least in the eyes of the world, so that h/she can grow up untainted by the social construct of a gender role—and so the world can get a chance to revise its pigeonholing of people into gender roles. That is at least the way Storm’s parents present his/her case. So what

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will happen when Storm’s sex is revealed? And maybe more important, how will this upbringing play into his or her self-identity? Most people who heard of the Storm case have found the parents’ choice to be reprehensible, because they are interfering with the social normal development of their child. Perhaps Storm will share his or her story with the world when childhood is over. Psychologists of the 1960s and 1970s generally assumed that sex roles were purely a matter of upbringing, or nurture. The theory of psychosexual neutrality, in- spired by the theory of behaviorism, which arose earlier in the century, held that a child can be molded into being male or female but is born neither except by virtue of the genitals; if a person seems stereotypically male, it is because of his upbringing, and not a biological fact. This theory also suggests that if we’d like our children to be less stereotypically male or female than tradition expects, we just have to give them a more unisex upbringing. But the theory of psychosexual neutrality has come under severe criticism within the past few years: Cases that had been reported as successful molding of children born with ambiguous genitalia (formerly called hermaphrodites, they’re now referred to as intersexual children) are now under scrutiny for simply having assigned a sex to the child and assuming that upbringing and hormone treat- ment would take care of the rest. A disturbing story is that of David Reimer, who lost his penis to a botched cir- cumcision as an infant in the late 1960s and was raised as a girl, Brenda. In spite of the parents’ well-meaning efforts to convince Brenda that she was a girl, she never felt comfortable, and upon discovering the truth at the age of fourteen, promptly discarded the female persona for that of David. He had reconstructive surgery and married a woman whose children he adopted. But the stresses of his abnormal child- hood proved to be too much for David, and after being divorced he took his own life in 2004. The case of Brenda/David as well as cases of intersexual children do seem to point toward nature as being more important in forming a person’s sexual identity than nurture is. (See Box 12.10 for a discussion of homosexuality and gender choice.) But we shouldn’t discount the infl uence of nurture completely: The manner in which we express our sexuality and whether or not we become “typically” male or female may well be a matter of our upbringing, at least to some extent.

Difference Feminism: Gilligan and the Ethic of Care

The idea that nature will prevail over nurture has given a boost to the theory of differ- ence feminism, which emerged in the 1980s to claim that women and men should be viewed as equal but fundamentally different. By the beginning of the 1980s women had been in the workforce long enough for people to begin to evaluate the situation, and although some women felt good about working in what used to be a “man’s world” and conforming to its standards (to a greater or lesser degree), others felt that somehow those standards were damaging to their female identity. Few provi- sions for child care existed, there was little understanding of family demands, and the overriding atmosphere was one of competition and isolation rather than coop- eration and teamwork. For those women, survival in the male-dominated public sphere was possible only if they were willing to give up some of their female values.

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In talking about the possibility of choosing gen- der roles, it is reasonable to discuss the issue of homosexuality and the gay lifestyle. There is still considerable political and moral opposition to homosexuals in Western societies, in some more than in others. In some societies homo- sexuals can now marry; in others homosexuality is still illegal. Why is there a traditional oppo- sition to homosexuality in Christian countries? It is because of several traditional Christian as- sumptions, such as (1) homosexuality is a moral choice, and one that goes against nature (nature calls for procreation), so homosexuality is mor- ally wrong; and (2) homosexuals are primarily seducers of adolescents, who will then become homosexual. In the early 1990s scientists reached the tentative conclusion (based on brain autopsies) that male homosexuality is not a mat- ter of choice but of biology. In that case both of the above objections would be invalid, because (1) gay men don’t choose their lifestyle or sexual orientation but are born with it (so it is natu- ral for them); and (2) boys can’t be seduced to become homosexuals; they either are born that way or not. (Besides, being gay does not imply that one is primarily interested in young boys.) But there is as yet no extensive research about lesbianism or about bisexualism. The advantage for homosexuals of a conclusive result point- ing to biological factors is obvious: There could be no more reason for discrimination based on the belief that homosexuality is an “immoral choice.” But such a fi nding might open the door for new areas of discrimination: Might we see parents take their young children to the doctor to have them “screened” for homosexuality, and

if they test positive, ask to have them “cured”? In this way homosexuality would be labeled a defect, a disease. Some homosexuals might say they would prefer to be heterosexual if that were possible, but certainly not all would. In the fi rst decade of the 2000s the issue of same-sex marriage became headline news in several states around the country, as well as in Europe. In several European countries gay civil marriages had already been legal for years, but in some European communities the issue be- came one of allowing gays to have church wed- dings. In the United States the focus was on civil marriages versus civil unions; although many states allow what are called civil unions, same- sex partnerships that are recognized by em- ployers, insurance companies, and health care offi cials, some mayors and judges around the country thought it only fair to extend the pos- sibility of a civil marriage to gay couples. In San Francisco the legislation has moved back and forth between rulings, ending in favor of same- sex marriages. The issue continues to be politi- cally volatile: In 2008 the California Supreme Court struck down the ban on same-sex mar- riages, making California the second state (Mas- sachusetts was the fi rst) to legalize such unions, but Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Maine, and Washington allow civil unions or domestic partnership. And in 2011 the Pentagon offi cially abandoned the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and allowed gays to serve openly in the armed forces. It appears that the issue may not be as politically volatile as in decades past, although a great number of Americans continue to fi nd the idea of same-sex marriage unacceptable.

Box 12.10 C A N G A Y S C H O O S E N O T T O B E G A Y ?

Difference feminism proposed that the feminist agenda could include not just equal opportunity and equal pay for men and women but also an acknowledgment that many women want something different from what men want and some of women’s capabilities lie in areas other than those of most men.

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CATHY © 1997 Cathy Guisewite. Reprinted with permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved.

The psychologist John Gray theorizes in his best-selling self-help book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus that men and women have very different approaches and expectations. Difference feminism agrees. Classical feminism, on the other hand, assumes that if we minimize gender differ- ences in a child’s upbringing, a new generation of people who are persons fi rst and gendered beings second will appear. Here is a classical feminist, Cathy, with a classical feminist dilemma: how to buy for children without perpetuating gender stereotypes. Does cartoonist Cathy Guisewite touch on a real problem? If so, what can be done about it?

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Interestingly enough, that was not the fi rst time such ideas have been ad- vanced—Western history, and certainly the history of philosophy, is rich with statements about the nature of women being different from that of men. Some famous examples include Aristotle, who believed that women were deformed men; Kant, who found it thoroughly improper for a woman to display any interest in intellectual or technological pursuits, even if she might be good at them; Rousseau, who saw a woman as a man’s helpmate and little else; and Nietzsche, who admired women for being more “natural” than men, but vilifi ed them for being inconsistent. Theories such as those all state that women and men have different abilities and thus different places in society. However, those theories were not advanced with any notion of gender equality. John Stuart Mill was the fi rst infl uential philosopher to suggest that although men and women have different capacities, they should nevertheless be given equal opportunities and equal respect for their abilities. It is that concept toward which the new feminism looks. That the question of gender equality is still a very sensitive one was demonstrated by the resignation of Harvard president and economist Larry Summers in 2006 after a 2005 conference speech in which he speculated that the fact that more men than women have successful careers in science and engineering was due not just to social factors but also to in- nate abilities—in other words, that men and women are fundamentally different by nature in terms of their typical talents. The speech caught the attention of the media, and an outcry ensued, labeling Summers a sexist, even though difference feminists as well as neurobiologists have speculated along the same lines for de- cades. However, what critics in the media and at Harvard heard was a throwback, a biased attempt to exclude women based on a traditional mistrust of women’s rational capabilities. In general, the values we’ve celebrated for so long as good human behavior have been predominantly male values, say the new feminists, because the male person has been considered the “real” person, whereas women have been thought of as slightly deviant. The man is the typical human being. In older textbooks on human development, the earlier forms of hominids, such as Homo habilis and Ne- andertal, have usually been depicted as males (“Neandertal man”). Only recently in textbooks and articles have humans been symbolized by both male and female fi gures. Even recent theories of psychology seem to use boys and men as their research material rather than girls and women, and the medical community must now face the problems resulting from years of conducting research with primarily male subjects. The older statistics regarding women and certain diseases (heart dis- ease, for example) are unreliable, and the administration of medicine to women is often decided on the basis of research on male subjects. This is not just a matter of a slanted ideology; it is a very practical problem. Women have for a long time been judged by the standards of men, as though women were what Aristotle claimed so long ago—defi cient males. Difference feminism wants to replace the image of one of the genders being more “normal” than the other with an image of both genders, with all their unique characteristics, being equally representative of the human race. This shift involves upgrading the female tasks of motherhood, housekeeping, car- ing for family members, and so on, tasks that for some people seemed to fall by the

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wayside in the fi rst rush to get women into the workforce. Typical female virtues that arise from concentrating on those tasks are generosity, caring, harmony, rec- onciliation, and maintenance of close relationships. The virtues that typically have been considered male are justice, rights, fairness, competition, independence, and adherence to the rules. Psychologist Carol Gilligan has been a major inspiration in the gender debate. Her book In a Different Voice (1982) analyzes reactions of boys and girls, men and women, and concludes that there is a basic difference in the moral attitudes of males and females. In one of her analyses she uses an experiment by a well-known contemporary psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg; it is called the Heinz dilemma. An interviewer using Kohlberg’s method asked two eleven-year-old children, Jake and Amy, to evaluate the following situation: Heinz’s wife is desperately ill, and Heinz can’t afford medication for her. Should Heinz steal the medication? Jake has no doubts; he says yes, Heinz should steal the medication, because his wife’s life is more important than the rule of not stealing. Amy, though, is not so sure. She says no, he shouldn’t steal the medication, because what if he got caught? Then he would have to go to jail, and who would look after his sick wife? Per- haps he could ask the pharmacist to let him have the medication and pay later. Since the interviewer didn’t get the expected response, Amy changed her answer. The interviewer concluded that Jake had a clear understanding of the situation: It would be just that the wife should receive the medication, because her rights would override the law of not stealing. The interviewer thought that Amy’s com- prehension of the situation was fuzzy at best. Jake understood what it was all about: rights and justice. Gilligan rereads Amy’s answer and comes up with another conclusion entirely: Although Jake answered the question Should Heinz steal the drug or not? (in other words, a classical dilemma requiring a choice between two answers), Amy heard it differently: Should Heinz steal the drug, or should he do something else? In effect, the children were answering different questions, and Amy’s response makes as much sense as Jake’s. But Amy is not concerned with the issues of rights and justice as much as she is with what will happen to Heinz and his wife; she even takes the hu- maneness of the pharmacist into consideration. In other words, she thinks in terms of caring. She acknowledges that there are laws, but she also believes people can be reasoned with. The interviewer, Gilligan says, didn’t hear that in Amy’s answer because he was looking for the “justice” answer. Gilligan concludes that boys and men tend to focus on an ethic of justice, whereas girls and women look toward an ethic of care. Gilligan’s infl uence on modern thinking about gender issues has been enormous, although other philosophers, psychologists, and linguists have also approached them in similar ways, and some of them long before Gilligan’s book came out. Perhaps the fi rst person to suggest that women tend to think in terms of caring whereas men think in terms of justice was not a philosopher, or a psychologist, but a playwright: the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen, in his monumentally infl uential play A Doll’s House from 1879. You can read an excerpt from this play in the Narratives section. Also, you may remember the debate in Chapter 7 about justice, in which John Rawls

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Carol Gilligan (b. 1936), American psychologist and author of In a Different Voice (1982) as well as coauthor of several books on women’s and girls’ psychology. She became Harvard Univer- sity’s fi rst professor of gender studies. Like Simone de Beauvoir, Gilligan believes that throughout Western history men have been considered the “normal” gender and women have been viewed as not-quite-normal. However, unlike Beauvoir, Gilligan does not argue for a monoandrogynous society, believing instead that men and women are fundamentally different in their approach to life— different but equal.

suggested that we adopt “the original position,” pretending that we don’t know who we are when our policy takes effect; you may also remember the responses from Wolgast and Friedman that we can’t just assume we are strangers who don’t know one another, because part of being a social person is precisely that we have caring relationships with others and don’t just exist in some abstract legal universe. That is, in essence, similar to Gilligan’s criticism of a traditional ethic of justice as being the traditional male approach to moral questions and emphasizes that we can’t just pre- tend we don’t have our own gender. In the Primary Readings you’ll fi nd an excerpt from Gilligan’s In a Different Voice. Does that mean Gilligan is claiming that all women are always caring? That is a matter of interpretation. Some readers see her theory as a description of what we might call the “female condition”: Because of either nature or upbringing or both, most women are caring human beings. Others see that as a preposterous statement. Not all women are caring, and few women, even if they are generally caring persons, are caring all the time. Gilligan’s theory of the ethics of care does not have to be read as a description of how women really act, though; with its emphasis on values it is a theory about how most women believe they ought to act. It is a theory of women’s normative values—we might call it a theory about the caring imperative —not a the- ory about some inevitable female nature. Psychologists have not found complete supporting evidence for Gilligan’s ideas; it doesn’t seem certain that women are particularly care-oriented by nature, but what has emerged is a confi rmation of the stereotype that women are more empathy-oriented than men. A study from 2006 found that when most men watch someone get shocked for something he or she did, the reward center of their brain is activated—it makes them feel good. Most women, on the other hand, have their pain center activated, so it makes them empathize with the wrongdoer. And women are less likely than men to agree that one person should be sacrifi ced to save fi ve, as in the famous trolley dilemma invented by Philippa Foot. Such ex- amples, mentioned by Jesse Prinz (see Chapter 11), don’t necessarily show that women are feeling creatures, and men are not, but they do show that we live in a culture that rewards and expects women’s empathy more so than men’s—at least that is what Prinz thinks. (Gilligan’s theory was one of the inspirational sources

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for Furrow and Wheeler’s Ethic of Care which you read about in Chapter 10, but the Furrow-Wheeler theory goes beyond the gender issue, making a caring approach the moral ideal for humans in general, in the style of Levinas’s moral philosophy.) What does the Gilligan theory add up to? For many women, it means that their experiences of attachment and their focus on relationships are normal and good and not “overly dependent,” “clinging,” or “immature”; it means an upgrading of what we consider traditional female values. The point of Gilligan’s book is to prompt the ma- ture woman to understand rights and the mature man to understand caring so we all can work and live together in harmony. Her hopes may not be realized for decades to come, however, for although some may argue that they know some very caring men and some very justice-oriented women, it seems Gilligan is right in claiming that most women in the United States grow up believing that caring is what is most important, and most men grow up believing that individual rights and justice are the ultimate ethical values. There are risks involved in Gilligan’s theory. Some think we may end up el- evating female values far above male values. In that case we will have reversed one unfair system but created another unfair system by declaring women “normal” and men “slightly deviant.” A more pressing problem is the following: If we say it is in a woman’s nature to be understanding and caring, we may be forcing her right back into the private sphere from which she just emerged. Men (and also women) may say, Well, if most women aren’t able to understand “justice,” then we can’t use them in the real world, and they’d better go home and do what nature intended them to do: have babies and care for their man. Similarly, if a job calls for “caring” qualities, employers may be reluctant to hire a man, because men are not “naturals” at caring. So instead of giving people more opportunities, Gilligan may actually be setting up new categories that could result in policies that exclude women from “men’s work” and men from “women’s work.” It is not enough to say that the qualities of one gender are not supposed to outweigh the qualities of the other, because we all know that even with the best intentions, we tend to rank one set of differences higher than the other. We may all be equal, but remember George Orwell’s Animal Farm? In that novel, which is a metaphor for political despotism, Orwell warns against some being considered “more equal than others.” Critics have claimed that what Gilligan is doing is throwing a monkey wrench into the philosophy of gender equality, and her “ethic of care” theory may result in statements such as this: “We need a new executive with a good head for legal rules—but we can’t hire a woman, of course, even though she seems otherwise qualifi ed, because science says that women have a lousy sense of justice.” In short, there is a danger that a psychological theory of gender may shift from describing what seems to be the case to prescribing a set of rules about who ought to do what. Although her theory of the ethic of care may raise problems for the concept of equality, there is no doubt that Gilligan touched on something a vast number of women have been able to relate to. Some years ago, Gilligan and other feminists engaged in a written debate in the Atlantic Monthly with Christina Hoff Sommers (see Box 12.8 and Chapter 10), who

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by then had acquired a solid reputation among some feminists as being no feminist at all. Sommers had just published a book, The War Against Boys (2000), in which she claimed that because of what she calls gender feminism, young boys are now fac- ing a hard time in school. Contrary to the standard wisdom that girls are overlooked in the classroom in favor of the more assertive boys, Sommers pointed out that it is in fact the girls who nowadays are getting all the attention from the teachers and are being held up as role models as smarter and better behaved than the boys. That makes boys lose self-esteem. Sommers’s claims caused consternation and disbelief among readers of the Atlantic Monthly, where her views were fi rst published. But she has also found an audience who agree that conditions in schools have changed dramatically over the past decades to the benefi t of girls, and we need to look at the possibility that in some cases it may have come at a price: the shortchanging of boys. Since her book came out in 2000, her claims have, to a great extent, been supported by further studies as well as a growing appreciation in the court of public opinion. An article in Newsweek, January 30, 2006, “The Trouble with Boys,” echoed Som- mers’s analysis with statistics and case studies, claiming that the attention given to girls has made boyhood itself somehow questionable and that what is needed is a positive reevaluation of masculinity itself. Critics were quick to point out, however, that this is nothing but a backlash, attempting to undo the great strides women made in the twentieth century and to undermine the intellectual and professional gains of women in the twenty-fi rst century. However, it is clear that the observation that boys are being shortchanged in today’s educational climate has hit a nerve with parents, and students, based on personal experience. The debate rolls on, and by the end of this chapter you’ll have met two thinkers—one a linguist and the other a neuropsychologist—who have, each in her and his own way, weighed in on the issue: Deborah Tannen and Michael Gurian.

Radical Feminism: Uprooting Sexism

The term radical alone is often enough to make some people tune out. We are used to the term meaning “extremism.” For some, a radical feminist is a stereo- typical male-basher. But we must be cautious here, because much depends on how we interpret the term radical. If we read it as “extremist feminism,” then it will generally be used by antifeminists to describe anything they disagree with as being too extreme. The feminists themselves who are tagged with the label may think of themselves as mainstream. It is thus a relative concept and often used in a disparaging sense, meaning any feminism that goes further than you’re willing to accept. (“Equal pay for equal work” could sound like radical feminism to some traditionalists.) To be sure, there are feminists who think in more sweeping terms than others. Some see sexual intercourse with men as inherently humiliating for women. And there are misandric feminists who assume that all men are inca- pable of wanting or working for gender equality, just as there are misogynist men who think ill of all women. But most of those who today call themselves radical feminists have a different agenda: They take the term radical in its original Latin meaning, going to the root ( radix ) of the matter. Such radical feminists ask, How

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did gender discrimination arise? What were the structures that kept it in place? And do we still have elements of those structures today? The answers are gener- ally: It arose in patriarchy; those structures have kept gender discrimination alive to this day. A child is still considered to be of the father’s family more than of the mother’s; yet a mother is still considered to be the primary caregiver of a child taken ill at school, even though the father’s profession might be less demanding than hers and his workplace closer to the child’s school. A woman is still expected to take her career less seriously than a man is, and to adopt her husband’s last name, and some continue to consider a woman’s career contributions as less im- portant than a man’s. Sexual liberty is still considered more acceptable for boys and men than for girls and women. Little girls’ toys are still in the pink section in the toy stores, and little boys’ toys are still action fi gures from a world with practi- cally no equal women participants. The radical feminist doesn’t necessarily want boys to play with dolls or girls to play Mortal Kombat, but she or he wants us to understand where those choices are coming from and to decide to discard any tra- dition that sees women as lesser beings than men. The “Princess” phenomenon, explored in Box 12.11, would indicate for the radical feminists that the roots of gender stereotypes are deep.

While second-wave feminists were focused on the classical feminist concept of strict gender equality, some feminists took the radical view that any display of traditional femininity was playing into the hands of patriarchy and male dominance: Skirts gave way to pants, jewelry and makeup disappeared, high heels became fl at heels, and life became, perhaps, less glamor- ous, but also more comfortable. Little girls were dressed in unisex coveralls, and the frilly look was retired. So it was quite disturbing for older second-wave feminists to see the princess look emerge in the new millennium with a new push by the Disney Corporation to recapture the minds of romantic little girls and their roman- tically starved mothers. The pink Princess line of merchandise was a hugely successful result, with clothes, bedding, alarm clocks, everything that a little girl might beg to have in her room. Little girls love it—but some parents are wor- ried that the gender brainwashing has started up

again, trying to make the girls into conventional women who focus more on being cute than on creating a meaningful future for themselves. So does that mean that the new generation of girls will grow up to be vain robots—or is it simply opening up more possibilities for self- expression, as third-wave feminism advocates? Lately it appears that little girls aren’t stuck with the princess identity in the Disney universe; they can also opt to be fairies (like Tinkerbelle)—and pirates! Some critics are linking the phenom- enon to popular television shows focusing on women as stereotypical females, thinking pri- marily about fi nding a husband, preferably while wearing really hip clothes—such as Sex and the City. In the chapter text, you’ll fi nd theories of classical and difference feminism; how might a classical and a difference feminist each view the princess phenomenon and a television series such as Sex and the Cit y?

Box 12.11 T H E P R I N C E S S P H E N O M E N O N

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A famous radical feminist, Andrea Dworkin (1946–2005), wrote in her book Right-Wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females (1983):

To achieve a single standard of human freedom and one absolute standard of human dignity, the sex-class system has to be dismembered. The reason is pragmatic, not philosophical: Nothing less will work. However much everyone wants to do less, less will not free women. Liberal men and women ask, Why can’t we just be ourselves, all human beings, begin now and not dwell in past injustices, wouldn’t that subvert the sex-class sys- tem, change it from the inside out? The answer is no. The sex-class system has a structure; it has deep roots in religion and culture; it is fundamental to the economy; sexuality is its creature; to be ‘just human beings’ in it, women have to hide what happens to them as women because they are women—happenings like forced sex and forced reproduc- tion, happenings that continue as long as the sex-class system operates. The liberation of women requires facing the real condition of women in order to change it. ‘We’re all just people’ is a stance that prohibits recognition of the systematic cruelties visited upon women because of sex oppression.

Dworkin says that one of the toughest challenges to women is to realize that all women have a common condition, even women you don’t like, women you don’t want to be compared to. The common condition is that women are, in Dworkin’s words, “subordinate to men, sexually colonized in a sexual system of dominance and submission, denied rights on the basis of sex, historically chattel, generally con- sidered biologically inferior, confi ned to sex and reproduction: this is the general description of the social environment in which all women live.” The goal of radical feminism is thus to raise the individual awareness of what the patriarchal tradition has done to us, men as well as women. We must try to undo the social and psychological damage done by centuries of male-dominated culture—by making women aware of how much in their personal and professional lives has been dominated and designed by men. Radical feminism sees women’s minds as by and large shaped by men’s accomplishments and thinking, and unless women learn to focus on women’s talents and accomplishments, they/we will always have a “false consciousness”: We think we understand, but all we have to work with are mind tools and concepts invented by men. Another radical feminist, Gerda Lerner, says that women have until recently been excluded from the “power of naming and defi ning.” Men have defi ned the problems deemed worthy of attention, as well as the vocabulary with which they should be described. Being able to put a name to a problem is part of solving it, and if women are deprived of naming their own problems, the problems remain unrecognized. For that reason, sex discrimination isn’t uprooted simply by listening to the private wishes and professional ideas of women, because those wishes and ideas may be favored by the male tradition we all grew up within. Radical femi- nism insists that both women and men must be educated to see that tradition as one of oppression and be encouraged to create a new one based on a female perspective.

The Bridge Builders: Tannen and Gurian

For many people, regardless of whether or not they call themselves feminist, the gender debate in the late-twentieth/early-twenty-fi rst century has become

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too divisive: The classical feminist view seems to fl y in the face of the fact that gender appears to be a true natural characteristic, not something that we can change through upbringing and education. The difference feminist view, on the other hand, seems to solidify some old stereotypes that many are happy to have escaped, and radical feminists haven’t been making many friends among women and men who enjoy and believe in traditional gender relations. But a few researchers have weighed in with an alternative approach—one that sounds promising if you happen to lean toward soft universalism, like your author. Two names in particular deserve to be mentioned: the linguist Deborah Tannen and the neuropsychologist Michael Gurian. I have chosen to call them bridge build- ers, because for both researchers the primary goal is to make it possible for women and men to understand each other, not to become like each other or to compete against each other. Deborah Tannen gained national attention with her second popular book, You Just Don’t Understand, based on her research into dif- ferences in conversation styles between women and men, and girls and boys, and through a subsequent series of works, both scholarly and popular, exploring why we tend to misunderstand each other and what we can do to bridge the gap between us. Tannen’s theory is that although many differences in our conversational styles may be due to hardwiring (nature), some of them have to do with our environ- ment (nurture), and she thus places herself in between classical and difference feminism, although she does point out that cross-culturally, all over the planet, some male-female behavioral differences seem to be universal. For Tannen, we are suffi ciently similar that we can learn to understand where our signifi cant other—or colleague or boss—of the other gender is coming from, so we can learn to see life through the eyes of our partner and make mutual adjustments to take his or her expectations into consideration. You’ll perhaps remember reading about Tannen and the Golden Rule in Chapter 11—this is one of her suggestions: If a man prefers to relax and not have to say anything when he comes home, and his wife or girlfriend is yearning to talk about her day and hear about his when she comes home, it is no good if we torture each other by one being noncom- municative and the other being overly communicative. What we must do is try to see it from the other’s perspective: If you’re a woman who wants to talk, give him a little quiet time! If you’re a man who just wants peace and quiet, put yourself in her place and be interested in what she has to say about her day, and don’t try to solve her problems! She just wants to share her day with you, not get a twelve- step program. Michael Gurian is a psychotherapist who has staked out a slightly different territory: In a series of very popular works that can be described as self-help books, he has outlined not only the psychological characteristics and needs of boys and girls but also the neurobiological science behind their behavior. In his book What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man’s Mind Really Works (2003), he explores what he consid- ers typical male brain patterns, presented for female readers in particular to help in making relationships less rocky and providing a basis for a mutual understanding.

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Although many books written by difference feminists explore the natural differences between women and men, Gurian’s book is an exception because he, like Tannen, seeks to emphasize understanding the differences. In addition, Gurian contributes to the gender debate with a concept that is uniquely his own: Bridge brains. Neurologi- cally, says Gurian, there are “typical” masculine men and “typical” feminine women. But in addition, there are women who are comfortable thinking and acting in ways that some would describe as more masculine than feminine, and men who act and think in more feminine than masculine ways. Sometimes such bridge brains are gay or lesbian, but often the bridge brains are heterosexual—they’re just really good at understanding the other gender, because neurologically, their brains are less typi- cally male or female. Although some have criticized Gurian for being a traditionalist, his books, like Tannen’s, have provided much practical relief and insight to read- ers who have been turned off by the divisiveness of twentieth-century feminism as well as the oppressiveness of the traditional gender roles. The fi nal word has by no means been said about male and female human nature, and about what roles we ought to play in the dance of human relationships, but there is something to be said for people who try to make the dance smoother for the rest of us, rather than more complicated.

Study Questions

1. Give a brief account of the similarities and differences between classical, dif- ference, radical, and equity feminism. Can those facets overlap? Explain.

2. Which brand of feminism do you think is the most relevant today? Are you a feminist? If yes, why? If no, why not?

3. Outline the advantages and the problems associated with difference feminism.

4. Evaluate Gurian’s concept of “bridge brains.” Is it useful? Why or why not?

Primary Readings and Narratives

The fi rst Primary Reading is an excerpt from Harriet Taylor Mill’s “Enfranchise- ment of Women,” and the second is from Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. The third is an excerpt from Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice. The fi rst Nar- rative is a summary of and an excerpt from the classic play by Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House, in which a nineteenth-century housewife, treated as a beloved but mischievous child by her husband, proves to be very much an adult person. The second Narrative is a summary of and excerpts from Beauvoir’s short story “The Woman Destroyed,” in which the title character’s husband leaves her for another woman. The third Narrative is an excerpt from a Victorian mystery novel written by historian M. Louisa Locke, Maids of Misfortune, and the fi nal Narrative is a sum- mary of a novel about women in contemporary Afghanistan, Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.

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Primary Reading

Enfranchisement of Women


Excerpt, 1851.

You have read about Harriet Taylor Mill in Chapter 5, as being John Stuart Mill’s soul mate and intellectual partner, and in this chapter you have read about their collaboration on the philosophy of women’s rights in mid-nineteenth-century Great Britain. Here you have an excerpt from Harriet Taylor Mill’s text, written in 1851—sixteen years before John Stuart Mill’s own book about women’s rights, The Subjection of Women, was pub- lished. In 1851 Harriet and John were also fi nally married, two years after the death of Harriet’s husband and after a relationship of twenty-one years. Until Harriet’s untimely death from tuberculosis in 1858, she and John went on collaborating about other proj- ects such as an analysis of domestic violence, property rights, and the work that was to become John Stuart Mill’s fi rst book after her death: On Liberty. In this excerpt H. T. Mill dismisses three standard nineteenth-century arguments against women in the workforce: that allowing women in the workforce would (1) go against the duties of motherhood, (2) be unfair competition to men, and (3) mean an unsuitable hardening of the female character.

Concerning the fi tness, then, of women for politics, there can be no question: but the dispute is more likely to turn upon the fi tness of politics for women. When the reasons alleged for excluding women from active life in all its higher departments, are stripped of their garb of declamatory phrases, and reduced to the simple expression of a mean- ing, they seem to be mainly three: the incompatibility of active life with maternity, and with the care of a household; secondly, its alleged hardening effect on the character; and thirdly, the inexpediency of making an addition to the already excessive pressure of competition in every kind of professional or lucrative employment.

The fi rst, the maternity argument, is usually laid most stress upon: although (it needs hardly be said) this reason, if it be one, can apply only to mothers. It is neither necessary nor just to make imperative on women that they shall be either mothers or nothing; or that if they have been mothers once, they shall be nothing else during the whole remainder of their lives. Neither women nor men need any law to exclude them from an occupation, if they have undertaken another which is incompatible with it. No one proposes to exclude the male sex from Parliament because a man may be a soldier or sailor in active service, or a merchant whose business requires all his time and energies. Nine-tenths of the occupations of men exclude them de facto from public life, as effectu- ally as if they were excluded by law; but that is no reason for making laws to exclude even the nine-tenths, much less the remaining tenth. The reason of the case is the same for women as for men. There is no need to make provision by law that a woman shall not carry on the active details of a household, or of the education of children, and at the same time practise a profession or be elected to parliament. Where incompatibility is real, it will take care of itself: but there is gross injustice in making the incompatibility a pretence for the exclusion of those in whose case it does not exist. And these, if they were

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free to choose, would be a very large proportion. The maternity argument deserts its sup- porters in the case of single women, a large and increasing class of the population; a fact which, it is not irrelevant to remark, by tending to diminish the excessive competition of numbers, is calculated to assist greatly the prosperity of all. There is no inherent reason or necessity that all women should voluntarily choose to devote their lives to one animal function and it consequences. Numbers of women are wives and mothers only because there is no other career open to them, no other occupation for their feelings or their activities. Every improvement in their education, and enlargement of their faculties— everything which renders them more qualifi ed for any other mode of life, increases the number of those to whom it is an injury and an oppression to be denied the choice. To say that women must be excluded from active life because maternity disqualifi es them for it, is in fact to say, that every other career should be forbidden them in order that maternity may be their only resource.

But secondly, it is urged, that to give the same freedom of occupation to women as to men, would be an injurious addition to the crowd of competitors, by whom the av- enues to almost all kinds of employment are choked up, and its remuneration depressed. This argument, it is to be observed, does not reach the political question. It gives no excuse for withholding from women the rights of citizenship. The suffrage, the jury-box, admission to the legislature and to offi ce, it does not touch. It bears only on the industrial branch of the subject. Allowing it, then, in an economical point of view, its full force; assuming that to lay open to women the employments now monopolized by men, would tend, like the breaking down of other monopolies, to lower the rate of remuneration in those employments; let us consider what is the amount of this evil consequence, and what the compensation for it. The worst ever asserted, much worse than is at all likely to be realized, is that if women competed with men, a man and a woman could not together earn more than is now earned by the man alone. Let us make this supposition, the most unfavourable supposition possible, the joint income of the two would be the same as before, while the woman would be raised from the position of a servant to that of a part- ner. Even if every woman, as matters now stand, had a claim on some man for support, how infi nitely preferable is it that part of the income should be of the woman’s earning, even if the aggregate sum were but little increased by it, rather than that she should be compelled to stand aside in order that men may be the sole earners, and the sole dispens- ers of what is earned. Even under the present laws respecting the property of women, 1 a woman who contributes materially to the support of the family, cannot be treated in the same contemptuously tyrannical manner as one who, however she may toil as a domestic drudge, is a dependent on the man for subsistence. . . . But so long as competition is the general law of human life, it is tyranny to shut out one-half of the competitors. All who have attained the age of self-government, have an equal claim to be permitted to sell whatever kind of useful labour they are capable of, for the price which it will bring.

The third objection to the admission of women to political or professional life, its al- leged hardening tendency, belongs to an age now past, and is scarcely to be comprehended

1 The truly horrible effects of the present state of the law among the lowest of the working population, is exhib- ited in those cases of hideous maltreatment of their wives by working men, with which every newspaper, every police report, teems. Wretches unfi t to have the smallest authority over any living thing, have a helpless woman for their household slave. These excesses could not exist if women both earned, and had the right to possess, a part of the income of the family.

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by people of the present time. There are still, however, persons who say that the world and its avocations render men selfi sh and unfeeling; that the struggles, rivalries, and col- lisions of business and of politics make them harsh and unamiable; that if half the species must unavoidably be given up to these things, it is the more necessary that the other half should be kept free from them; that to preserve women from the bad infl uences of the world, is the only chance of preventing men from being wholly given up to them.

There would have been plausibility in this argument when the world was still in the age of violence; when life was full of physical confl ict, and every man had to redress his injuries or those of others, by the sword or by the strength of his arm. Women, like priests, by being exempted from such responsibilities, and from some part of the accom- panying dangers, may have been enabled to exercise a benefi cial infl uence. But in the present condition of human life, we do not know where those hardening infl uences are to be found, to which men are subject and from which women are at present exempt. Individuals now-a-days are seldom called upon to fi ght hand to hand, even with peace- ful weapons; personal enmities and rivalities count for little in worldly transactions; the general pressure of circumstances, not the adverse will of individuals, is the obstacle men now have to make head against. That pressure, when excessive, breaks the spirit, and cramps and sours the feelings, but not less of women than of men, since they suf- fer certainly not less from its evils. There are still quarrels and dislikes, but the sources of them are changed. The feudal chief once found his bitterest enemy in his powerful neighbour, the minister or courtier in his rival for place: but opposition of interest in ac- tive life, as a cause of personal animosity, is out of date; the enmities of the present day arise not from great things but small, from what people say of one another, more than from what they do; and if there are hated, malice, and all uncharitableness, they are to be found among women fully as much as among men. In the present state of civilization, the notion of guarding women from the hardening infl uences of the world, could only be realized by secluding them from society altogether. The common duties of common life, as at present constituted, are incompatible with any other softness in women than weakness. Surely weak minds in weak bodies must ere long cease to be even supposed to be either attractive or amiable.

But, in truth, none of these arguments and considerations touch the foundations of the subject. The real question is, whether it is right and expedient that one-half of the human race should pass through life in a state of forced subordination to the other half. If the best state of human society is that of being divided into two parts, one consisting of persons with a will and a substantive existence, the other of humble companions to these persons, attached, each of them to one, for the purpose of bringing up his children, and making his home pleasant to him; if this is the place assigned to women, it is but kind- ness to educate them for this; to make them believe that the greatest good fortune which can befall them, is to be chosen by some man for his purpose; and that every other career which the world deems happy or honourable, is closed to them by the law, not of social institutions, but of nature and destiny.

When, however, we ask why the existence of one-half the species should be merely ancillary to that of the other—why each woman should be a mere appendage to a man, allowed to have no interests of her own, that there may be nothing to compete in her mind with his interests and his pleasure; the only reason which can be given is, that men like it. It is agreeable to them that men should live for their own sake, women for the sake of men; and the qualities and conduct in subjects which are agreeable to rulers, they

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succeed for a long time in making the subjects themselves consider as their appropriate virtues. . . . Under a nominal recognition of a moral code common to both, in practice in self-will and self-assertion form the type of what are designated as manly virtues, while abnegation of self, patience, resignation, and submission to power, unless when resis- tance is commanded by other interests than their own, have been stamped by general consent as pre-eminently the duties and graces required of women. The meaning being merely, that power makes itself the centre of moral obligation, and that a man likes to have his own will, but does not like that his domestic companion should have a will different from his.

Study Questions

1. What are Harriet Taylor Mill’s counterarguments to the three standard arguments against women in the workforce? Are they convincing to you? Why or why not?

2. Might the three arguments (motherhood, unfair competition, and hardening of the character) be valid in any conceivable modern context? Explain why or why not.

3. Apply H. T. Mill’s arguments to the idea of women in combat. Do you see the same arguments supporting the idea? Or is there a difference? Explain.

4. Comment on H. T. Mill’s statement that the only reason women have been ancillary (subordinate) to men is that men like it; is that a fair statement within the context of the nineteenth century, as far as you can tell? Would it be a fair statement in the twenty-fi rst century?

Primary Reading

The Second Sex


Excerpt, 1949. New translation 2010 by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.

In this excerpt, Beauvoir demonstrates her commitment to what we have called clas- sical feminism: If boys and girls were raised as human beings rather than two differ- ent species, sexism would no longer exist. The “castration complex” and the “Oedipus complex” are references to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories that little girls feel inferior to boys because they have no penis (and believe they have been deprived of one). Here you should remember that the style of child rearing Beauvoir criticizes is, for most educated people in the Western world, a thing of the past. Her critical assessment of the traditional upbringing of boys and girls has been a powerful factor in changing that tradition.

A world where men and women would be equal is easy to imagine because it is exactly the one the Soviet revolution promised: women raised and educated exactly like men


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would work under the same conditions and for the same salaries;1 erotic freedom would be accepted by custom, but the sexual act would no longer be considered a remuner- able “service”; women would be obliged to provide another livelihood for themselves; marriage would be based on a free engagement that the spouses could break when they wanted to; motherhood would be freely chosen—that is, birth control and abortion would be allowed—and in return all mothers and their children would be given the same rights; maternity leave would be paid for by the society that would have responsi- bility for the children, which does not mean that they would be taken from their parents but that they would not be abandoned to them.

But is it enough to change laws, institutions, customs, public opinion, and the whole social context for men and women to really become peers? “Women will always be women,” say the skeptics; other seers prophesy that in shedding their femininity, they will not succeed in changing into men and will become monsters. This would mean that today’s woman is nature’s creation; it must be repeated again that within the human collectivity nothing is natural, and woman, among others, is a product developed by civilization; the intervention of others in her destiny is originary: if this process were driven in another way, it would produce a very different result. Woman is defi ned nei- ther by her hormones nor by mysterious instincts but by the way she grasps, through foreign consciousnesses, her body and her relation to the world; the abyss that separates adolescent girls from adolescent boys was purposely dug out from early infancy; later, it would be impossible to keep woman from being what she was made, and she will always trail this past behind her; if the weight of this past is accurately measured, it is obvious that her destiny is not fi xed in eternity. One must certainly not think that modifying her economic situation is enough to transform woman: this factor has been and remains the primordial factor of her development, but until it brings about the moral, social, and cultural consequences it heralds and requires, the new woman cannot appear; as of now, these consequences have been realized nowhere: in the U.S.S.R. no more than in France or the United States; and this is why today’s woman is torn between the past and the present; most often, she appears as a “real woman” disguised as a man, and she feels as awkward in her woman’s body as in her masculine garb. She has to shed her old skin and cut her own clothes. She will only be able to do this if there is a collective change. No one teacher can today shape a “female human being” that would be an exact homologue to the “male human being”: if raised like a boy, the young girl feels she is an exception, and that subjects her to a new kind of specifi cation. Stendhal understood this, saying: “The forest must be planted all at once.” But if we suppose, by contrast, a society where sexual equality is concretely realized, this equality would newly assert itself in each individual.

If, from the earliest age, the little girl were raised with the same demands and hon- ors, the same severity and freedom, as her brothers, taking part in the same studies and games, promised the same future, surrounded by women and men who are unambigu- ously equal to her, the meanings of the “castration complex” and the “Oedipus com- plex” would be profoundly modifi ed. The mother would enjoy the same lasting prestige as the father if she assumed equal material and moral responsibility for the couple; the child would feel an androgynous world around her and not a masculine world; were she more affectively attracted to her father—which is not even certain—her love for

1 That some arduous professions are prohibited to them does not contradict this idea: even men are seeking professional training more and more; their physical and intellectual capacities limit their choices; in any case, what is demanded is that no boundaries of sex or caste be drawn.

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him would be nuanced by a will to emulate him and not a feeling of weakness: she would not turn to passivity; if she were allowed to prove her worth in work and sports, actively rivaling boys, the absence of a penis—compensated for by the promise of a child—would not suffi ce to cause an “inferiority complex”; correlatively, the boy would not have a natural “superiority complex” if it were not instilled in him and if he held women in the same esteem as men.2 The little girl would not seek sterile compensations in narcissism and dreams, she would not take herself as given, she would be interested in what she does, she would throw herself into her pursuits. . . .

People will say that all these considerations are merely utopian because to “remake woman,” society would have had to have already made her really man’s equal; conser- vatives have never missed the chance to denounce this vicious circle in all analogous circumstances: yet history does not go round in circles. Without a doubt, if a caste is maintained in an inferior position, it remains inferior: but freedom can break the circle; let blacks vote and they become worthy of the vote; give woman responsibilities and she knows how to assume them; the fact is, one would not think of expecting gratuitous generosity from oppressors; but the revolt of the oppressed at times and changes in the privileged caste at other times create new situations; and this is how men, in their own interest, have been led to partially emancipate women: women need only pursue their rise, and the success they obtain encourages them; it seems most certain that they will sooner or later attain perfect economic and social equality, which will bring about an inner metamorphosis.

In any case, some will object that if such a world is possible, it is not desirable. When woman is “the same” as her male, life will lose “its spice.” This argument is not new either: those who have an interest in perpetuating the present always shed tears for the marvelous past about to disappear without casting a smile on the young future. It is true that by doing away with slave markets, we destroyed those great plantations lined with azaleas and camellias, we dismantled the whole delicate Southern civilization; old lace was put away in the attics of time along with the pure timbres of the Sistine castrati, and there is a certain “feminine charm” that risks turning to dust as well. I grant that only a barbarian would not appreciate rare fl owers, lace, the crystal clear voice of a eu- nuch, or feminine charm. When shown in her splendor, the “charming woman” is a far more exalting object than “the idiotic paintings, over-doors, decors, circus backdrops, sideboards, or popular illuminations” that maddened Rimbaud; adorned with the most modern of artifi ces, worked on with the newest techniques, she comes from the remot- est ages, from Thebes, Minos, Chichén Itzá; and she is also the totem planted in the heart of the African jungle; she is a helicopter and she is a bird; and here is the greatest wonder: beneath her painted hair, the rustling of leaves becomes a thought and words escape from her breasts. Men reach out their eager hands to the marvel; but as soon as they grasp it, it vanishes; the wife and the mistress speak like everyone else, with their mouths: their words are worth exactly what they are worth; their breasts as well. Does such a fl eeting miracle—and one so rare—justify perpetuating a situation that is so damaging for both sexes? The beauty of fl owers and women’s charms can be appreci- ated for what they are worth; if these treasures are paid for with blood or misery, one must be willing to sacrifi ce them.


2I know a little boy of eight who lives with a mother, aunt, and grandmother, all three independent and active, and a grandfather who is half-senile. He has a crushing inferiority complex in relation to the female sex, though his mother tries to combat it. In his lycée he scorns his friends and professors because they are poor males.

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Study Questions

1. Identify the characteristic elements of classical feminism in this excerpt.

2. Comment on Beauvoir’s remark that “the beauty of fl owers and women’s charms can be appreciated for what they are worth; if these treasures are paid for with blood of misery, one must be willing to sacrifi ce them.”

3. What does Beauvoir mean by saying, “Let blacks vote and they become worthy of the vote; give woman responsibilities and she knows how to assume them”?

4. Evaluate the criticism that the gender-free model of upbringing Beauvoir envisions for boys and girls is really just patterned after the traditional upbringing of boys; does Beauvoir want women to become men in order to achieve social and political freedom?

Primary Reading

In a Different Voice


Excerpt, 1982.

In this excerpt, Gilligan refers to the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, whom you encountered briefl y in Chapter 10. Erikson’s theory of development focuses on the importance of the adolescent boy’s separating himself from his parents to achieve a personal identity before he can experience any intimacy. For the adolescent girl it is different, says Erikson; she doesn’t experience the same kind of separation. However, it is the boy’s development that becomes the typical individual development for Erikson, according to Gilligan. In this excerpt she also refers to how fairy tales may give similar portrayals of male and female psychology. Gilligan here introduces the experience of the ethic of care from the woman’s point of view.

Erikson’s description of male identity as forged in relation to the world and of female identity as awakened in a relationship of intimacy with another person is hardly new. In the fairy tales that [psychoanalyst] Bruno Bettelheim describes [in The Uses of Enchant- ment ] an identical portrayal appears. The dynamics of male adolescence are illustrated archetypically by the confl ict between father and son in “The Three Languages.” Here a son, considered hopelessly stupid by his father, is given one last chance at education and sent for a year to study with a master. But when he returns, all he has learned is “what the dogs bark.” After two further attempts of this sort, the father gives up in disgust and orders his servants to take the child into the forest and kill him. But the servants, those perpetual rescuers of disowned and abandoned children, take pity on the child and decide simply to leave him in the forest. From there, his wanderings take him to a land beset by furious dogs whose barking permits nobody to rest and who periodically devour one of the inhabitants. Now it turns out that our hero has learned just the right thing: he

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can talk with the dogs and is able to quiet them, thus restoring peace to the land. Since the other knowledge he acquires serves him equally well, he emerges triumphant from his adolescent confrontation with his father, a giant of the life-cycle conception.

In contrast, the dynamics of female adolescence are depicted through the tell- ing of a very different story. In the world of the fairy tale, the girl’s fi rst bleeding is followed by a period of intense passivity in which nothing seems to be happening. Yet in the deep sleeps of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, Bettelheim sees that inner concentration which he considers to be the necessary counterpart to the activity of adventure. Since the adolescent heroines awake from their sleep, not to conquer the world, but to marry the prince, their identity is inwardly and interpersonally de- fi ned. For women, in Bettelheim’s as in Erikson’s account, identity and intimacy are intricately conjoined. The sex differences depicted in the world of fairy tales, like the fantasy of the woman warrior in Maxine Hong Kingston’s recent autobiographical novel [ The Woman Warrior, 1977] which echoes the old stories of Troilus and Cressida and Tancred and Corinda, indicate repeatedly that active adventure is a male activity, and that if a woman is to embark on such endeavors, she must at least dress like a man. . . .

“It is obvious,” Virginia Woolf says, “that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex.” Yet, she adds, “it is the masculine values that prevail.” As a result, women come to question the normality of their feelings and to alter their judgments in deference to the opinion of others. In the nineteenth- century novels written by women, Woolf sees at work “a mind which was slightly pulled from the straight and made to alter its clear vision in deference to external authority.” The same deference to the values and opinions of others can be seen in the judgments of twentieth-century women. The diffi culty women experience in fi nding or speaking publicly in their own voices emerges repeatedly in the form of qualifi cation and self- doubt, but also in intimations of a divided judgment, a public assessment and private assessment which are fundamentally at odds.

Yet the deference and confusion that Woolf criticizes in women derive from the values she sees as their strength. Women’s deference is rooted not only in their social subordination but also in the substance of their moral concern. Sensitivity to the needs of others and the assumption of responsibility for taking care lead women to attend to voices other than their own and to include in their judgment other points of view. Wom- en’s moral weakness, manifest in an apparent diffusion and confusion of judgment, is thus inseparable from women’s moral strength, an overriding concern with relationships and responsibilities. The reluctance to judge may itself be indicative of the care and con- cern for others that infuse the psychology of women’s development and are responsible for what is generally seen as problematic in its nature.

Thus women not only defi ne themselves in a context of human relationship but also judge themselves in terms of their ability to care. Women’s place in man’s life cycle has been that of nurturer, caretaker, and helpmate, the weaver of those networks of relation- ships on which she in turn relies. But while women have thus taken care of men, men have, in their theories of psychological development, as in their economic arrangements, tended to assume or devalue that care. When the focus on individuation and individual achievement extends into adulthood and maturity is equated with personal autonomy, concern with relationships appears as a weakness of women rather than as a human strength. . . .


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The discovery now being celebrated by men in mid-life of the importance of in- timacy, relationships, and care is something that women have known from the begin- ning. However, because that knowledge in women has been considered “intuitive” or “instinctive,” a function of anatomy coupled with destiny, psychologists have neglected to describe its development. In my research, I have found that women’s moral develop- ment centers on the elaboration of that knowledge and thus delineates a critical line of psychological development in the lives of both of the sexes.

Study Questions

1. Examine “The Three Languages,” the fi rst fairy tale cited in the excerpt, and compare it with “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty” (which I assume you are familiar with). Explain how each can be said to contain a view of the male and female psyche. You may want to read the section on fairy tales in Chapter 2 again.

2. How does this excerpt on women’s moral values relate to virtue theory?

3. Evaluate Gilligan’s statement that “women’s deference is rooted not only in their so- cial subordination but also in the substance of their moral concern. Sensitivity to the needs of others and the assumption of the responsibility for taking care lead women to attend to voices other than their own and to include in their judgment other points of view.” How do you think Levinas (Chapter 10) would comment on that state- ment? What do you think Christina Hoff Sommers might say? And what is your own opinion?


A Doll’s House


Play, 1879. Translated by William Archer. Summary and Excerpt. Two British fi lm versions exist, both from 1973; one stars Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins; the other stars Jane Fonda and David Warner.

By the time the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House, isolated voices had been speaking out for the liberation of women for over a hundred years, but there was not a single country in the Western world where women had yet achieved the right to vote. When Ibsen’s play was performed on the stages of Europe, the fi nal act turned out to be a bombshell; Ibsen allows us to see Nora’s situation from her own point of view and shows us that this viewpoint is heroic in its own way. In her quest to be regarded as a mature human being, Nora sent signals to men and women all over the Western world and made a considerable impact on the gender debate in Scandinavia at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. The story has been considered so compelling that the play is still performed today.

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Some contemporary readers may prefer to look for literature about the condition of women written by women, not by men. But, for one thing, Ibsen’s play has had historical importance in helping men as well as women see the traditional woman’s role as a politi- cal question; for another thing, good writers gifted with clear powers of observation and an imaginative genius, such as Ibsen, are often quite capable of seeing a situation from the other gender’s point of view. The confl ict between the feminine virtue of caring and the masculine focus on jus- tice may seem new to many readers of Carol Gilligan, but in these excerpts you can see the outlines of that very same debate, anticipated by Ibsen more than a century ago. Nora and Torvald Helmer are a happily married middle-class couple with three young children. Helmer regards his lively wife as another child, always happy and sing- ing; his pet names for her are his songbird, his lark, his little squirrel. He accuses her of being a spendthrift, of always asking for more pocket money, but he forgives her because she is so sweet and amusing. And even to her friends she seems like a carefree, coddled woman with no worries other than choosing what clothes to wear for parties. But things are not what they seem on the surface. An old friend of Nora’s comes to visit, and Nora tells her a deep secret of which she is very proud: Some years ago Helmer was very ill, and the doctor recommended an expensive trip to Italy as a cure. Helmer believes that Nora’s father lent them the money, and he is now dead, so he can’t tell. But Nora paid for the trip all by herself, with no income or fortune of her own: She took out a private loan, with high interest, and that is why she has been asking Helmer for so much pocket money, buying only the cheapest things for herself, and paying the loan off, always on time, with interest. And it won’t be long now before the loan will be paid off: Helmer is being promoted to bank manager, and their fi nances will improve. But disaster waits in the wings: An employee at the bank, Krogstad, turns up and begs her to ask her husband to let him keep his job. Why might he lose it? Because he has a criminal record; he has forged papers. And why would he come to Nora? Because Nora knows him well—he is the man who lent her the money for the trip to Italy. He threatens to tell Helmer, but what is worse, he has done some research. Nora’s father cosigned the loan, as security—but the signature is dated days after her father died. The conclusion is obvious: Nora forged her father’s signature, and now Krogstad threatens her with the law and tells her that his crime was no worse than her own.

Krogstad: May I ask you one more question? Why did you not send the paper to your father?

Nora: It was impossible. Father was ill. If I had asked him for his signature, I should have had to tell him why I wanted the money; but he was so ill I really could not tell him that my husband’s life was in danger. It was impossible.

Krogstad: Then it would have been better to have given up your tour.

Nora: No, I couldn’t do that; my husband’s life depended on that journey. I couldn’t give it up.

Krogstad: And did it never occur to you that you were playing me false?

Nora: That was nothing to me. I didn’t care in the least about you. I couldn’t endure you for all the cruel diffi culties you made, although you knew how ill my husband was.


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Krogstad: Mrs. Helmer, you evidently do not realise what you have been guilty of. But I can assure you it was nothing more and nothing worse that made me an outcast from society.

Nora: You! You want me to believe that you did a brave thing to save your wife’s life?

Krogstad: The law takes no account of motives.

Nora: Then it must be a very bad law.

Krogstad: Bad or not, if I produce this document in court, you will be condemned a ccording to law.

Nora: I don’t believe that. Do you mean to tell me that a daughter has no right to spare her dying father trouble and anxiety?—that a wife has no right to save her hus- band’s life? I don’t know much about the law, but I’m sure you’ll fi nd, somewhere or another, that that is allowed. And you don’t know that—you, a lawyer! You must be a bad one, Mr. Krogstad.

Krogstad: Possibly. But business—such business as ours—I do understand. You be- lieve that? Very well; now do as you please. But this I may tell you, that if I am fl ung into the gutter a second time, you shall keep me company.

[Bows and goes out through hall.]

Nora: [Stands a while thinking, then tosses her head.] Oh nonsense! He wants to frighten me. I’m not so foolish as that. [ Begins folding the children’s clothes. Pauses. ] But—? No, it’s impossible! Why, I did it for love!

Later, Helmer talks to her about what a despicable man Krogstad is, and how vile his crime. Shortly after, Helmer fi res Krogstad, in spite of Nora’s pleas, and Krogstad shows up again. Now he wants more: Unless Nora makes Helmer reinstate him and give him a promotion, he will reveal all. And if Nora should think of drastic solutions, such as killing herself, her husband will still be told everything. Now Krogstad wants Helmer to know, so he can blackmail the two of them, instead of only her, and he leaves a letter for Helmer, telling him everything. Nora is desperate and tries to distract Helmer when he comes home by dancing for him, and she makes him promise that he will not open the letter until the next day. Meanwhile, she pleads with her friend and confi dante to go to Krogstad and persuade him to stop his threats. The following night Nora and Helmer are at a dance, and Nora dances as if it is her last night on this earth. Coming home, there is still the letter waiting for them, and Nora, deep in despair, is waiting, too: for a miracle, for without it she is going to kill herself. But Helmer reads the letter, and is horrifi ed: the woman he loved, a liar and a crimi- nal! He blames her weakness of character and her father’s bad infl uence and sees himself as a ruined man. He insists that Nora can no longer see her children—they must be protected from her evil infl uence. Nora threatens suicide, but Helmer scoffs at it: How is that going to help him and his ruin? And now it dawns on Nora that her motivation for forging her father’s signature is utterly lost on Helmer; the miracle she was hoping for, and dreading, is far from happening. But now comes the salvation: Nora’s friend has succeeded in persuading Krogstad to drop the matter (through a personal sacrifi ce which Nora knows nothing about).

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Krogstad returns Nora’s I.O.U. with an apologetic letter, and Helmer is ecstatic, exclaim- ing that now he is saved. And, magnanimously, he now sees Nora as a poor, misguided soul who has not understood what she has done, and he forgives her. All she needs now is his guidance, he says—from now on he’ll be her will and her conscience, and every- thing will be as before. Meanwhile Nora, stone-faced, has changed out of her masquerade dress and into her ordinary clothes. For her, the masquerade is over, and although he doesn’t know it yet, it is, too, for him. She asks him to sit down, for she has much to talk over with him.

Helmer: You alarm me, Nora. I don’t understand you.

Nora: No, that is just it. You don’t understand me; and I have never understood you— till tonight. No, don’t interrupt. Only listen to what I say.—We must come to a fi nal settlement, Torvald.

Helmer: How do you mean?

Nora: [ After a short silence. ] Does not one thing strike you as we sit here?

Helmer: What should strike me?

Nora: We have been married eight years. Does it not strike you that this is the fi rst time we two, you and I, man and wife, have talked together seriously?

Helmer: Seriously! What do you call seriously?

Nora: During eight whole years, and more—ever since the day we fi rst met—we have never exchanged one serious word about serious things.

Helmer: Was I always to trouble you with the cares you could not help me to bear?

Nora: I am not talking of cares. I say that we have never yet set ourselves seriously to get to the bottom of anything.

Helmer: Why, my dearest Nora, what have you to do with serious things?

Nora: There we have it! You have never understood me.—I have had great injustice done me, Torvald; fi rst by father, and then by you.

Helmer: What! By your father and me?—By us, who have loved you more than all the world?

Nora: [ Shaking her head. ] You have never loved me. You only thought it amusing to be in love with me.

Helmer: Why, Nora, what a thing to say!

Nora: Yes, it is so, Torvald. While I was at home with father, he used to tell me all his opinions, and I held the same opinions. If I had others I said nothing about them, because he wouldn’t have liked it. He used to call me his doll-child, and played with me as I played with my dolls. Then I came to live in your house—

Helmer: What an expression to use about our marriage!

Nora: [ Undisturbed. ] I mean I passed from father’s hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your taste; and I got the same tastes as you; or I pretended to—I don’t know which—both ways, perhaps; sometimes one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it now, I seem to have been living here like a beggar,


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from hand to mouth. I lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and father have done me a great wrong. It is your fault that my life has come to nothing.

Helmer: Why, Nora, how unreasonable and ungrateful you are! Have you not been happy here?

Nora: No, never. I thought I was; but I never was.

Helmer: Not—not happy!

Nora: No; only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our house has been nothing but a play-room. Here I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I used to be papa’s doll-child. And the children, in their turn, have been my dolls. I thought it fun when you played with me, just as the children did when I played with them. That has been our marriage, Torvald.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Helmer: To forsake your home, your husband, and your children! And you don’t consider what the world will say.

Nora: I can pay no heed to that. I only know that I must do it.

Helmer: This is monstrous! Can you forsake your holiest duties in this way?

Nora: What do you consider my holiest duties?

Helmer: Do I need to tell you that? Your duties to your husband and your children.

Nora: I have other duties equally sacred.

Helmer: Impossible! What duties do you mean?

Nora: My duties towards myself.

Helmer: Before all else you are a wife and a mother.

Nora: That I no longer believe. I believe that before all else I am a human being, just as much as you are—or at least that I should try to become one. I know that most people agree with you, Torvald, and that they say so in books. But henceforth I can’t be satisfi ed with what most people say, and what is in books. I must think things out for myself, and try to get clear about them.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Nora: I have waited so patiently all these eight years; for of course I saw clearly enough that miracles don’t happen every day. When this crushing blow threatened me, I said to myself so confi dently, “Now comes the miracle!” When Krogstad’s letter lay in the box, it never for a moment occurred to me that you would think of submitting to that man’s conditions. I was convinced that you would say to him, “Make it known to all the world”; and that then—

Helmer: Well? When I had given my own wife’s name up to disgrace and shame—?

Nora: Then I fi rmly believed that you would come forward, take everything upon yourself, and say, “I am the guilty one.”

Helmer: Nora—!

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Nora: You mean I would never have accepted such a sacrifi ce? No, certainly not. But what would my assertions have been worth in opposition to yours?—That was the miracle that I hoped for and dreaded. And it was to hinder that that I wanted to die.

Helmer: I would gladly work for you day and night, Nora—bear sorrow and want for your sake. But no man sacrifi ces his honour, even for one he loves.

Nora: Millions of women have done so.

So, in the end, Torvald is the one who understands nothing; he promises to love her, to do anything if she will only stay with him. But she sees him now as a stranger and prepares to leave. In her fi nal words to him she says that to get together again, they would both have to change so much that “communion between them shall be a mar- riage.” And Nora leaves, closing the door behind her.

Study Questions

1. What does Nora mean by the fi nal line in this excerpt?

2. If you were in Nora’s position, would your reaction be similar or different? Why? If you were in Helmer’s position, would your reaction be similar or different? Why?

3. Examine the excerpts and fi nd evidence of virtue ethics as opposed to an ethics of justice.

4. Ibsen refers to his characters as “Nora” and “Helmer” rather than “Nora” and “ Torvald.” What kind of effect might that have on the reader of the play? Do you think it is intentional?


Maids of Misfortune

M . L O U I S A L O C K E

Novel, 2010, excerpt.

In contrast to Ibsen’s drama I’d like to introduce you to another story from the nine- teenth century, but written in 2010. M. Louisa Locke’s Victorian mystery novel about Annie Fuller, a young widow in San Francisco of 1879, is the fi rst in a series of novels about Annie. In a tight spot fi nancially, but with every intent of keeping her indepen- dence as well as the house left to her by an aunt, Annie earns a living in the guise of an entirely different persona, Madam Sybil the clairvoyant, giving San Francisco busi- nessmen advice in money matters. When one of her favorite clients is found dead and destitute, and the death written off as a suicide, Annie takes it upon herself to investi- gate the situation, and hires on in the deceased client’s household as, in effect, a third disguised persona, the maid Lizzie. Because Annie knows that her client, a kind, elderly gentleman, had profi ted from her advice and had great plans for the future, including a bonus for her that she desperately needs. Locke’s story takes us through the streets of old


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San Francisco, and since the author, in addition to being a novelist, is a historian with a special interest in American women’s history of the nineteenth century, you can be cer- tain that wherever Annie goes in San Francisco, you’ll get an accurate description of the way everything looked, sounded, and smelled in 1879! But more important for the topic of this chapter, you also get a sense of what it was like to be a widow with very few rights in nineteenth-century California. Here you are introduced to Annie and her predicament:

The bastard!

Annie Fuller gasped, shocked at even allowing such an unladylike expression to enter her mind. She had been enjoying her tea and toast while sorting through her mail in splendid solitude. This was one of the privileges of being the owner of a boarding house, and absolute heaven after the dreadful years she had spent living off the charity of her in-laws, not a room or a moment to call her own.

However, this morning, the mail contained a slim envelope that had blasted her peace to shreds. With trembling hands she reread the letter, which followed the standard business formula, direct, very much to the point, and devastating in its implications.

Mr. Hiram P. Driscoll New York City, New York July 25, 1879

Mrs. John Fuller 407 O’Farrell Street San Francisco, California

Dear Madam:

I hope that this letter fi nds you in good health. It pains me to have to introduce such a diffi cult subject, but it is my duty to remind you of your obligation to repay the loan I made to your late husband, John Fuller, by September 30, 1879.

To reacquaint you with the particulars: the original loan was for $300, to be paid back within six years. Under the terms of the loan, interest was to be paid monthly at a rate of 5% until the loan was repaid. In respect for your departed husband, for whom I had great affection, and in recognition of your fi nancial diffi culties at the time of his death fi ve years ago, I did not insist that this part of the agreement be met. However, since none of the interest has been paid, you are now responsible for the original loan, plus accrued interest, a total sum of $1,380.00.

I confess that I have been quite concerned about your ability to meet your ob- ligations, and I was greatly relieved when I heard from your esteemed father-in-law about your good fortune in inheriting property in such an up-and-coming city as San Francisco. I must be in your fair city the last week of August on business. I would like to take the opportunity to stop by and visit with you at that time. I am quite sure that we will be able to come to some agreement of mutual benefi t.

Your obedient servant, Hiram P. Driscoll

Annie’s skin crawled as she thought of Mr. Driscoll, one of New York City’s most suc- cessful entrepreneurs. “Your obedient servant.” The hypocrite! She realized some women

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found his unctuous manner attractive, but after each encounter with him she always felt soiled. At parties he had leaned close, his husky voice whispering inanities as if they were endearments, his hot breath blanketing her cheek and his hands roving unceasingly over her person, patting a shoulder, stroking a hand, squeezing an elbow.

Annie shivered. Standing up abruptly, she crossed the room to close the window, shutting out the chill early morning fog. She had suspected that Driscoll had played some role in her late husband’s dramatic slide into fi nancial ruin, but she hadn’t realized the man played the part of loan shark. Not that she was surprised at the debt. Creditors swarmed from the wainscoting in the months following John’s death, picking over what was left of his estate. Few of them got a tenth of what was owed, since her father-in-law, as John’s exec- utor, hired an expensive but skilled bankruptcy lawyer to ensure that at least his own assets would not be touched. But Annie had been left destitute and dependent on John’s family.

Dependent, that was, until she inherited this house from her Aunt Agatha last year. She had returned to San Francisco where she had lived as a small child and turned the old mansion, located just four blocks from Market Street, into a respectable boarding house. Annie’s features softened as she walked to the fi replace and turned to look at the room that had grown golden with the sunrise. The furnishings were sparse. There was an old mahogany bedstead and mismatched wardrobe and chest of drawers, a simple round table on which the morning tea tray sat, and a comfortable armchair, next to the fi replace. A worn Persian carpet covered a dark oak fl oor, and the only decoration was the two simple blue jugs holding dried fl owers sitting on either side of the mantel clock. These jugs and the clock were all that was left of her inheritance from her mother, who had died over thirteen years ago. She didn’t care if her surroundings were unfashionable because she loved everything about the room and the house and the freedom they represented.

Oh, how unfair to have Driscoll and his loan surface at this time, when she fi nally felt safe. He was clever to have waited, accumulating the interest. If he had tried to col- lect on the original loan fi ve years ago, he would have gotten very little, perhaps nothing, back. Everything she had brought into her marriage, including the house her father gave her, had gone to settle her husband’s debts. But now she had Aunt Agatha’s house, and Driscoll wanted take it from her. The last part of the letter implied as much.

Annie began to pace. The house was small, built in the early 1850s, and she had only six rooms to let out. After all the expenses of running a boarding house, she barely broke even. There was simply no way that she could, on her own, pay off Driscoll’s loan, without selling the house itself. Fighting Driscoll in a New York court would be equally expensive, as he would be well aware. He probably counted on being able to frighten her into turning over the house. The lawyer who was executor of her Aunt Agatha’s estate had suggested that she might get nine hundred, or even a thousand dollars for the prop- erty, located as it was near the expanding commercial sector of the city. Clearly Driscoll had fi gured this out.

“The God-damned bastard!” This time Annie said the words out loud. She may have been only twenty-six, a widow without any immediate family to pro-

tect her, but she refused to let Driscoll, or any other man for that matter, rip her home and independence away from her a second time.

When Annie fi nally left her bedroom, it was a quarter to seven. Descending the nar- row uncarpeted backstairs, she caught the tantalizing odor of the morning bread baking and heard the faint clatter of breakfast dishes interspersed with bursts of conversation emanating from the kitchen below. She yearned to go down one more fl ight and join in


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whatever joke had caused the sudden laughter, but she couldn’t, she had work to do. She turned off the stairs on to the fi rst fl oor and entered a small room at the back of the house.

At one time this room had been a gloomy back parlor where her Uncle Timothy had retired with his port after Sunday dinner to smoke his cigar and subsequently snore away the long afternoons. Annie had remodeled it by having a small entrance cut from this room into the larger parlor in front, installing a washstand and mirror in one corner and replacing the horsehair sofa with a small desk and book shelves.

Annie stood in front of that washstand and began a curious morning ritual. First, she liberally dusted her face with a fl at white powder that rested in a box on the top of the washstand, effectively erasing all signs of the freckles sprinkled across her nose. Then she dipped the little fi nger of her right hand into a small tin containing a sticky black substance, which she applied liberally to her eyelashes, normally the same reddish-gold as her hair. Using her middle fi nger, she transferred a minute quantity of rouge from an- other tin to her lips, turning their usual soft pink into a strident scarlet. After washing the black and red stains from her hands with the rough soap she kept beside the washstand, she bent and opened the cabinet door under the stand and removed a disembodied head.

She placed this apparition, a be-wigged hairdresser’s wooden form, on the stand. After tethering her own braided hair securely with a net, she carefully lifted the mass of intricately entwined jet black curls off the form and pulled it snugly onto her own head. The transformation was startling. Her eyes seemed to grow instantly larger, turning from the color of heavily-creamed chocolate to the deep rich hues of coffee, taken black. Her features, normally pleasing but unremarkably Anglo-Saxon, emerged as fl amboyant and Mediterranean. Annie smiled mockingly at her image in the mirror. Then, after putting the mute, scalped hairdresser’s form away, she draped a silken shawl of scarlet and gold over her severe black dress and opened the door to the front parlor, where she would spend the rest of her day at work, not as Annie Fuller, the respectable, widowed board- inghouse keeper, but as Sibyl, one of San Francisco’s most exclusive clairvoyants.

Study Questions

1. Which elements in Annie’s story so far are relevant for an analysis of women’s lives in a nineteenth century Western culture, and possibly a theory of women’s values, in this excerpt?

2. Compare Annie and Nora ( A Doll’s House ). Are there any similarities? Any differences?


The Woman Destroyed


Short story, 1967. Translated by Patrick O’Brian. Summary and Excerpts.

As you know from Chapter 10, Jean-Paul Sartre was not only a philosopher but also a novelist and a playwright. The fact that his longtime partner, Simone de Beauvoir, also wrote fi ction is not quite as well known. Here we look at passages from her short story

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“The Woman Destroyed,” about Monique, who has been married to Maurice for more than twenty years. Their two daughters are grown and no longer live at home, and Monique is under the impression that now she and Maurice will continue with the pleasant life they’ve established and which has become a habit. So it is a dreadful shock to her to discover that he has been having an affair with an acquaintance of theirs, Noëllie, for quite some time. In these excerpts you will see Monique swing between extremes of blaming Noëllie, her husband, and herself for the situation that has developed. Maurice doesn’t deny the relationship, and initially he doesn’t want to lose either woman. He wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Maurice will see anything I say against Noëllie as the effect of my jealousy. It would be better to say nothing. But I really do fi nd her profoundly disagreeable. She reminds me of my sister—the same confi dence, the same glibness, the same phonily offhand elegance. It seems that men like this mixture of coquetry and hardness. When I was sixteen and she was eighteen Maryse swiped all my boyfriends. So much so that I was in a dreadful state of nerves when I introduced Maurice to her. I had a ghastly nightmare in which he fell in love with her. He was indignant. “She is so superfi cial! So bogus! Paste diamonds, rhine- stones! You—you’re the real jewel.” Authentic: that was the word everyone was using in those days. He said I was authentic. At all events I was the one he loved, and I was not en- vious of my sister anymore; I was happy to be the person I was. But then how can he think a great deal of Noëllie, who is of the same kind as Maryse? He is altogether gone from me if he likes being with someone I dislike so very much—and whom he ought to dislike if he were faithful to our code. Certainly he has altered. He lets himself be taken in by false values that we used to despise. Or he is simply completely mistaken about Noëllie. I wish the scales would drop from his eyes soon. My patience is beginning to run out. . . .

“I don’t want any sharing: you must make your choice.” He had the overwhelmed look of a man who is saying to himself, Here we are! It had

to happen. How can I get myself out of this one? He adopted his most coaxing voice. “Please, darling. Don’t ask me to break with Noëllie. Not now.”

“Yes, now. This business is dragging on too much. I have borne it too long by far.” I looked at him challengingly. “Come now, which do you like best? Her or me?”

“You, of course,” he said in a toneless voice. And he added, “But I like Noëllie too.” I saw red. “Admit the truth, then! She’s the one you like best! All right! Go to her!

Get out of here. Get out at once. Take your things and go.” I pulled his suitcase out of the wardrobe, I fl ung clothes into it higgledy-piggledy, I

unhooked coat hangers. He took my arm: “Stop!” I went on. I wanted him to go; I really wanted it—it was sincere. Sincere because I did not believe in it. It was like a dreadful psychodrama in which they play at truth. It is the truth, but it is being acted. I shouted, “Go and join that bitch, that schemer, that dirty little shady lawyer.”

He took me by the wrists. “Take back what you have said.” “No. She’s a fi lthy thing. She got you by fl attery. You prefer her to me out of vanity.

You’re sacrifi cing our love to your vanity.” Again he said, “Shut up.” But I went on. I poured out everything I thought about

Noëllie and him. Yes: I have a confused recollection of it. I said that he was letting himself be taken in like a pitiful fool, that he was turning into a pretentious, on-the-make vulgar- ian, that he was no longer the man I had loved, that once upon a time he had possessed a heart and given himself up to others—now he was hard and selfi sh and concerned only with his career.


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“Who’s selfi sh?” he cried. And he shouted me down. I was the one who was selfi sh— I who had not hesitated to make him give up a resident post, who would have liked to confi ne him to a small-time career all his life long so as to keep him at home, I who was jealous of his work—a castrating woman. . . .


I had an inspiration this morning: the whole thing is my fault. My worst mistake has been not grasping that time goes by. It was going by and there I was, set in the attitude of the ideal wife of an ideal husband. Instead of bringing our sexual relationship to life again I brooded happily over memories of our former nights together. I imagined I had kept my thirty-year-old face and body instead of taking care of myself, doing gymnastics and going to a beauty parlor. I let my intelligence wither away: I no longer cultivated my mind— later, I said, when the children have gone. (Perhaps my father’s death was not with- out bearing on this way of letting things slide. Something snapped. I stopped time from that moment on.) Yes: the young student Maurice married felt passionately about what was happening in the world, about books and ideas; she was very unlike the woman of today, whose world lies between the four walls of this apartment. It is true enough that I tended to shut Maurice in. I thought his home was enough for him: I thought I owned him entirely. Generally speaking I took everything for granted; and that must have ir- ritated him intensely—Maurice who changes and who calls things in question. Being irritating—no one can ever get away with that. I should never have been obstinate about our promise of faithfulness, either. If I had given Maurice back his freedom—and made use of mine, too, perhaps—Noëllie would not have profi ted by the glamour of clandes- tinity. I should have coped with the situation at once. Is there still time? . . .

It is only now that I realize how much value I had for myself, fundamentally. But Maurice has murdered all the words by which I might try to justify it: he has repudiated the standards by which I measured others and myself; I had never dreamed of challeng- ing them—that is to say of challenging myself. And now what I wonder is this: what right had I to say that the inner life was preferable to a merely social life, contemplation to trifl ing amusements, and self-sacrifi ce to ambition? My only life had been to create happiness around me. I have not made Maurice happy. And my daughters are not happy either. So what then? I no longer know anything. Not only do I not know what kind of a person I am, but also I do not know what kind of a person I ought to be. Black and white merge into one another, the world is an amorphous mass, and I no longer have any clear outlines. How is it possible to live without believing in anything or in myself?

Study Questions

1. In your opinion, does Beauvoir want us to identify with Monique, or criticize her at- titude, or perhaps a little bit of both? Identify the passages that support your view.

2. Compare these excerpts with the text excerpt from The Second Sex (pp. 621–624). How might Beauvoir analyze Monique’s situation and attitude from the viewpoint of her own classical feminism?

3. Monique seems to think she has no moral right to hold on to her husband. Do you agree? Why or why not?

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A Thousand Splendid Suns


Novel, 2007. Summary.

Some stories can illustrate a number of different moral issues. A Thousand Splendid Suns is one such story. It could fi nd an obvious place in Chapter 4, as an example of selfi shness and sacrifi ce. We could place it in Chapter 3 as an example of soft universalism—how fundamental values are cherished both in Western and non-Western cultures, such as compassion and loyalty. But it is primarily a story about women’s hardship in a culture that doesn’t recognize them as equal citizens, and while it takes place in war-torn late twentieth century Afghanistan, it could be a story of women in any part of the world and at any time where women have been regarded as chattel, property of the men. Here I’ve chosen to let it illustrate fi rst the value of friendship under such trying conditions, and second an ethic of care as envisioned by Carol Gilligan. This is Maryam’s story—but it is in equal measure Laila’s story. Maryam grows up in a tiny hut on the outskirts of a town, Herat, in Afghanistan, with her mother. No brothers, no sisters—Maryam is her mother Nana’s entire life, and the adult woman has a very grim outlook on life and men: “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing fi nger always fi nds a woman. Always. You remember that, Maryam.” But there is one man in the little girl’s life—her father Jalil who comes to visit every Thursday, when he can. Sometimes the little girl will wait in vain for him, but mostly he shows up, for a couple of hours, and those are her happy moments. He takes her fi shing and teaches her how to clean fi sh, he brings her little trinkets and pieces of jewelry, tells stories and recites poetry for her, but he never takes her into town to see his home, because he is married to another woman and has children with her, his “real children.” While the law would allow him to have several wives, there is no talk of him marrying Maryam’s mother, because she is of a different class. Nana’s father might have killed her for the sake of the family honor, since she got pregnant out of wedlock, but instead he disowned her and left town, Nana was hidden away with her daughter, and Jalil promised to support them and keep his two families separate. As Maryam grows older, she becomes more and more intrigued at the thought of her father’s life. He owns a cinema and tells her stories of the fi lms, but never takes her to see any of them. She receives no education except for visits to the kind old Mullah Faizulla, who teaches her to read, and teaches her about the Koran. But her mother is opposed to her going to school, because that is not for the likes of them. And, says Nana, without Maryam she would die. Only one skill is necessary for her, says Nana, and that is to endure —endure the suffering that awaits her—enduring as Nana herself apparently has done. When Maryam grows impatient one day when her father doesn’t show up, she walks to town with the impetuousness of a young teenager, and shows up at her father’s house only to be rejected in the most humiliating way. She spends the night outside the house, and is driven back by her father’s driver next day. But a horrible sight awaits her:


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Nana was serious when she said that without Maryam she would die—she has hanged herself. Now Maryam has no home, and she is taken in by Jalil and his family, reluctantly. Shortly thereafter her father and his wife present her with the “good news” that they have found her a husband. The fi fteen-year-old girl is going to marry a businessman in his for- ties, Rasheed, who has lost his wife and son. Maryam refuses to go, and begs and pleads, but to no avail. She is quickly married to Rasheed and taken to the big city, Kabul, away from everything she is familiar with, without even being given the chance to say goodbye to old Mullah. And from that moment on she regards her father as having betrayed her. In Kabul Maryam fi nds out that her entire status as a wife depends on her producing a son, a replacement of the boy Rasheed lost.When she has one miscarriage after another, her status dwindles to that of a servant. She has no friends, and is utterly dependent on the goodwill of a man whose disrespect for her increases year after year, and who subjects her to both physical and mental abuse. But in the same neighborhood another story is beginning, that of Laila. Laila is born into quite another kind of family. Her father is a teacher, and her mother is an out going woman, proud of her children, especially the two older boys. Laila excels in school, and has a good friend, Tariq, with whom she spends most of her free time. In Tariq’s friendly home his father and mother welcome her as one of the family. Tariq himself is no stranger to hardship, having lost a leg in an accident, but he is a boy of good cheer and a positive attitude. As the two children grow up, they fi nd themselves falling in love. Until this point, it could be a story from anywhere in human history where patri- archy is dominant, but the violent recent history of Afghanistan forces the characters to move in a new direction. The rebel forces, the Mujaheedin, are fi ghting the Soviet occupational forces (who, within a brief period of time, have established equal rights for women in the world of academia). Laila’s two brothers join the Mujaheedin, and are eventually killed. Tariq and his family leave for Pakistan along with thousands of other refugees—but not until he and Laila, now in their mid-teens, have professed their love for each other. They spend one night together, and then he leaves. He wants to take her along and marry her, but she thinks her parents need her, and won’t leave them. Shortly thereafter Laila’s father and mother are killed by a bomb during an air raid, and now Laila is the one who fi nds herself without a family. In an ominous replay of what happened to Maryam, Rasheed offers to take on Laila as his second wife, over the protests of Maryam. Laila is strangely compliant, because she now needs a husband—she is pregnant with Tariq’s child. And a mysterious stranger has shown up and told her that Tariq is dead in a fi eld hospital in Pakistan, so she agrees to marry Rasheed. However, Rasheed represents a kind of man she has never met before, in her relatively privileged existence: He views women as tools, he is violent as a matter of course, and sees his own wives as property who may not show their faces to the outside world. Both women now wear burqas in public, a precursor to what is to come with the Taliban takeover of the country. Laila’s status as a wife seems secure because of her pregnancy (which Rasheed of course believes to have happened after their marriage), but when she has a daughter instead of a son, her status plummets within the household. Meanwhile, the two women are at each other’s throats and try to avoid each other as much as possible. But as the little girl grows older, Maryam’s heart begins to melt—little Aziza takes her into her heart as Aunt Maryam,

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and for the fi rst time in her life since her father betrayed her, Maryam experiences love for another human being. And when Laila stands up for Maryam against their abusive husband, a friendship begins to form between the two women. They tell each other of their childhoods, and Laila hears the sad story of Maryam’s youth cut short by a spineless father and mentally fragile mother. In Kabul, meanwhile, conditions are deteriorating. The Mujaheedin have won the war against the Soviets, but now the tribes are fi ghting amongst themselves. Food is get- ting scarce, violence erupts, and Laila conceives of a desperate measure: They should leave Rasheed and Kabul for a safer place. They attempt to fl ee from town, but are turned in to the authorities by a stranger they decided to trust, and are returned to Rasheed and conditions that are far worse than when they left. He keeps Laila and her daughter boarded up with no food and water in one part of the house, and Maryam, beaten to a pulp, is locked up in the woodshed. Finally Rasheed lets them out, swearing that if it ever happens again, he’ll kill them. Life goes on for the two miserable women, locked in a virtual prison by Rasheed. With the take-over of the Taliban (1996), new rules are implemented that limit their lives even further: Now women can no longer go outside unless they are accompanied by a male relative; they can’t go to school, or hold down jobs. Jewelry, cosmetics, and laughter are forbidden. And now Laila is pregnant again, this time with a child fathered by Rasheed. When she needs to go to the hospital for the birth, no painkillers or sterile equipment are available, and she gives birth to her son through a caesarian, with no medicine. Even after Zalmai is born, that doesn’t raise her standing Rasheed’s eyes—now he is only concerned with the well-being of the boy. And we get the feeling that he has suspected all along that Aziza is not his—the entire neighborhood was used to seeing Laila and Tariq together all through their childhood. The little girl Aziza is temporarily placed in an orphanage because Rasheed claims he can’t afford to feed her, and Laila and Maryam have to fi nd ways to sneak out and visit her, since women can’t go outside alone, and Rasheed refuses to accompany them. And now the bombshell drops: Tariq returns. The tale of his death was concocted by Rasheed to wear down Laila’s resistance to their marriage, and now that Tariq has found Laila, they resume their friendship through shy, tentative talks while Rasheed is away during the day. Laila learns of the trials and tribulations Tariq has endured before he was able to come back and look for his beloved. But little Zalmai is now two years old, and can talk, and he tells his father that Mommy has a new friend. So Rasheed now proceeds to punish Laila, and is poised to kill her as he had sworn he would do. He has his hands on her throat, and she is losing consciousness. But behind him Maryam comes in from the toolshed, armed with a shovel. She is willing to do whatever it takes to defend the woman who has become her only friend, and who is the mother of the little girl who adores her. And Maryam takes the shovel to their tormentor with all her might, twice: once to disable him, and next, to kill him.

… At this point we leave the story, and you will have to read for yourself what hap- pens next. It is murder or justifi able homicide? What do they do with the body? Is Maryam charged with murder, or does she get away? Do Laila and Tariq fi nally have a life


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together? And do conditions change for Afghan women? The story plays out on the back- ground of an international situation involving the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and the political situation in Afghanistan is still volatile even as I write these lines. But the friendship between Maryam and Laila is not defi ned by world politics, but by a common destiny of having a mutual enemy in an abusive husband. And their choice to take care of each other under circumstances that could cost them their lives might be an example of an ethic of care as you have seen it described by Gilligan in this chapter, and Levinas in Chapter 10: higher than the laws of justice, called forth by facing the humanity and vulnerability of the Other.

Study Questions

1. Compare the situations of Nana, Maryam, and Laila: What are the differences, and what are the similarities? If you have read the book, you might also comment on the characters of Laila’s mother and Tariq’s mother, and the communist female school- teacher, all providing aspects of women’s lives in Afghanistan in the late twentieth century.

2. Compare the images of the men that you have just read about: Jalil, Rasheed, Laila’s father, and Tariq. What is the author trying to say about the failings of Jalil and Rasheed? Is this a story that views males as inherently violent and selfi sh?

3. What do you think of Nana’s advice to her daughter, “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing fi nger always fi nds a woman. Always.”?

4. Does this story really illustrate an ethic of care as suggested by Carol Gilligan? Is that a fair assessment? After all, the women don’t seem interested in caring for Rasheed, and he is the one who puts food on the table and a roof over their heads.

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