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Jane Addams and a Politics of Embodied Care
Journal of Speculative Philosophy (2001)
  • Maurice Hamington, Portland State University
In Reweaving the Social Fabric: Pragmatism and Feminism, Charlene Haddock Seigfried claims that, "[i]t is this pervasive concern with the most pressing issues of the day, with the intention of radically trans forming the conditions responsible for suffering and oppression, that contribute to the attraction pragmatism holds for feminism" (1996, 233-34). Seigfried's sentiment aptly describes the relationship between care ethics and pragmatism. Care ethics is named and evolved from feminist experience, but has often been criticized for a lack of a viable social dimension that addresses the contentious issues that grip the national and international arena: war, hunger, inequitable power systems, and so on. Pragmatism, and in particular, as I will argue, the work of Jane Addams, can infuse into care ethics a means for confronting social and political issues while maintaining the emotive and relational dimensions that make it such an important contribution tom oral philosophy. I contend that the writings and activism of the American pragmatist Jane Addams (1860-1935) not only exemplify modern feminist care ethics but also contribute particular practices necessary for a political philosophy of caring. Care is less concerned with the adjudication of individual acts and more concerned with the maintenance of right relationships in particular contexts. Care is both complex, because it is unlike other theories of morality in that it does not delineate universal norms, and a common disposition that pervades the human condition. Although she predates the contemporary feminist discourse on care by a half century, Addams employed what I refer to as embodied care. The term "embodied care" is an acknowledgment of the central role played by the body in the process of caring. Addams's continuity with care ethicists can be seen in her notions of sympathetic knowledge, her relational approach to morality, and her valorization of context and experience. As we examine the habits and practices of Addams's politics of care, embodiment will emerge as a significant theme. I will begin with a brief introduction to Addams.
Publication Date
Fall 2001
Publisher Statement
Copyright © 2001 by the Pennsylvania State University. All rights reserved.
Citation Information
Maurice Hamington. "Jane Addams and a Politics of Embodied Care" Journal of Speculative Philosophy Vol. 15 Iss. 2 (2001)
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