What is at the basis of moral action? An altruism acquired by the application of rule and principle? Or, as Noddings asserts, caring and the memory of being cared for? With numerous examples to supplement her rich theoretical discussion, Noddings builds a compelling philosophical argument for an ethics based on natural caring, as in the care of a mother for her child. The ethical behavior that grows out of natural caring, and has as its core care-filled receptivity to those involved in any moral situation, leaves behind the rigidity of rule and principle to focus on what is particular and unique in human relations.
Noddings's discussion is wide-ranging, as she considers whether organizations, which operate at a remove from the caring relationship, can truly be called ethical. She discusses the extent to which we may truly care for plants, animals, or ideas. Finally, she proposes a realignment of education to encourage and reward not just rationality and trained intelligence, but also enhanced sensitivity in moral matters.
Nel Noddings is Lee Jacks Professor of Education, Emerita, Stanford University. She is the author of Educating Moral People: A Caring Alternative to Character Education (2002), Starting at Home: Caring and Social Policy (2002), Women and Evil (California, 1989), The Challenge to Care in Schools (1992), Educating for Intelligent Belief or Unbelief (1993), and Philosophy of Education (1995).