Reason vs. Emotion
Feminists believe other moral theories have a distorted way of thinking. There are two aspects of
1) Traditional ethics attempts to be context-independent. That is, universal.
Examples: a) If two kids were drowning and one was your child, traditional ethics tells us that we
shouldn’t choose based on emotion.
b) Deontology: you must tell the truth and tell the person everything you know in order for
them to make an informed decision, even to a murderer about the where the person he is trying
to murder is.
Feminisms disagree with this, and say that we should use our emotions. While deontology and
utilitarianism are impartial, feminism is partial.
2) Denigration of emotions vis-à-vis reason: less control of emotions, more control of cognitive
Feminism says that emotions are similar to moral guides and that we should focus on emotion,
as emotional states shine a light on your duties. (If you feel pity, there is a reason).
Two Aspects of the denigration of emotion:
1) The moral life demands the cultivation of the moral emotions. People should feel empathy,
grief, etc. when working with others. Also, parents teach their children appropriate times to
feel different emotions.
2) This should be reflected in the respect shown to the moral emotions in moral theory.
Summary of Reason vs. Emotion:
True moral understanding is deeply context-dependent, and this context is defined by our emotional
engagement with other agents.
Public vs. Private Spheres:
3 assumptions of traditional ethics:
1) The public and private spheres are absolutely separate.
- Feminism says that this is not true; politics affects the private sphere.
2) What goes on in the private is not relevant to true morality.
3) The private sphere is essentially feminine, while the public is essentially masculine.
There are 3 reasons why people think this 3 assumption:
a) Women are more purely biological than men are.
b) The proper sphere of the biological for humans is the private. c) Therefore women essentially belong in the house (private) and not in the more refined
Virginia Held (2 wave of feminism) shocks previous feminisms by accepting these assumptions of
traditional ethics. Instead, Held shows how important mothering is; that it is the ultimate creative act.
Held says we should reconceive the “purely biological” function of mothering as the paramount moral
function in society.
His metaphysical doctrine was the W