An Ethics of Care from a Unificationist Perspective

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 12, 2011 - Pages 41-56

The ethics of care is an emerging discipline developed by feminist ethicists in the latter half of the twentieth century. After decades of both criticism and support, it gradually gained support from non-feminist ethicists and is now examined not as a feminist ethics but as a possible general ethical theory. This essay examines the strengths and weaknesses of an ethics of care and explores its relevance to Unification Ethics. Although the masculinity-femininity dynamic in Unification ontology could be the basis for a gender-based approach to moral reasoning, this essay focuses on the questions of non-gender based, general principles of ethics. Since Kantian ethics poses the sharpest contrast from care ethics, this essay elaborates the debate between them, as well as touch on the similarities between care ethics and other normative ethics such as Aristotelian ethics and Confucianism.


Characteristics of the Ethics of Care

Care ethics emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century out of the feminist movement. Since then it gradually gained support from non-feminist ethicists. Care ethics is still a growing theory, and it is discussed today not as a feminist ethics but as a general ethical theory.

The characteristics of care ethics can be summarized in four points: First, it views the human being as an interdependent being who values caring relationships, and recognizes the family as the primary setting where interdependence is evident and caring relationships are cultivated. Second, care ethics recognizes the moral value of emotional feelings and emotion-based virtues such as benevolence, empathy, receptivity, and sensitivity. Third, it recognizes the moral value of partiality in intimate relationships, such as those defined by family ties and close friendships. Finally, care ethics as a type of virtue ethics has a theoretical affinity with Aristotelian ethics and Confucian ethics. All of these points will be expounded upon against the backdrop of relevant points in Unification ethics.

Interdependence of Human Existence: Moral Relevance of Family and Home

Major proponents of this theory such as Carol Gilligan, Virginia Held, and Nel Noddings argue that dominant modern ethics, such as Kantian ethics and utilitarianism which they characterized as ethics of justice, were built upon the assumption that the human being is an autonomous, rational, independent individual.[1] Based upon this assumption, these ethics upheld reason-based moral principles seeking justice, equality, freedom, and human rights. Yet these dominant ethical theories fail to recognize the funda¬mental fact that human beings are essentially relational and interdependent. Care ethicists point out the fact that no human can survive without caring adults who nurture and raise him or her at the early stages of life. Later in life, one also becomes dependent upon others who take care of them. It is an illusory view, care ethics theorists argue, that a human being is independent. Rather, they argue that an adequate ethical theory must be built upon the understanding that human beings are essentially interdependent.

In an ethics of care, interdependence is understood at a much deeper level. For example, Nel Noddings, a noted care ethicist, argues in a section "Home as a Basic Need" in Happiness and Education, that the home is an extension of the self, and therefore the home is fundamental to life and determines one's happiness: "Built places may be regarded as extensions of our bodies, and the things with which we surround ourselves are part of our selves." This insight is similar to the Unificationist understanding of co-existence. One's identity is not an isolated, atomic entity. It is intertwined with others. Although Unificationism understands the family as the primary sphere where shared experiences and co-existence are most evident, Unificationist ethics extends the interdependency of human beings to the relationship between human beings and God.[2]

Because of the centrality of the family in the interdependency of human beings, an ethics of care pays particular attention to the family. In Starting at Home, Noddings elaborates how and why a family can be the ground to develop moral discourse. Although traditional ethics in the West starts from a state or a society and moves down to family roles, Noddings reverses the order. She argues that morality is established in the family first and then it is extended to the state or society:

The approach I take here reverses a long philosophical tradition. The custom, since Plato, has been to describe an ideal state or best state and then to discuss the role of homes and families as supporters of that state. What might we learn if, instead, we start with a description of best homes and then move outward to the larger society?[3]

While Confucianism is a family-based ethics, the ethical tradition of the West has paid a little attention to the family or home. Society has been seen as constituted by individuals, and the family as a marginal element to a society at large. In moral reasoning, attention has been given to either individuals or to society. Care ethics has brought a family and home to the forefront of moral discourse.

In addition, where dominant modern ethics pays little attention to the fact of caring in human life, an ethics of care argues for the moral relevance of caring and being cared for as the basis of moral reasoning. In The Ethics of Care, Virginia Held, a major care ethicist, explained the moral relevance of caring relations:

The ethics of care recognizes that human beings are dependent for many years of their lives, that the moral claim of those dependent on us for the care they need is pressing, and that there are highly important moral aspects in developing the relations of caring that enable human beings to live and progress.[4]

Furthermore, care ethics are built on the moral obligations found in particular relationships. Dominant moral theories start from universal principles such as maximization of happiness or a maxim of moral duty. Care ethics, in contrast, starts its reasoning from moral obligations to meet particular needs. In recognizing the "universal obligation for all parents to care for their children,"[5] Held points out that "the ethics of care starts with the moral claims of particular others, for instance of one's child, whose claims can be compelling regardless of universal principles."[6]

Moral Relevance of Emotional Feelings

An ethic of care argues for the importance of emotion in moral reasoning. Emotion has been often dismissed as unreliable or even an obstacle to sound moral judgments. Since Socrates and Plato, reason almost always occupied the central role in philosophical discourse including moral reasoning. Although modern ethics have recognized the value of emotion-based virtues such as benevolence, mercy, and forgiveness, emotion has been understood as peripheral to reason. "To be emotional" was nearly equated to being "irrational." Thus, two dominant ethics, Kantian deontological ethics and utilitarianism, were built upon the idea of the primacy of reason.

For example, a typical contrast between care ethics and Kantian ethics is the determination of whether an act is moral based on one's motive. Because of its rationalist orientation, Kantian ethics holds that actions motivated by the sense of "duty" alone can be moral. If the same actions are taken from natural emotional feelings, they are not moral. In Kantian ethics, a sense of duty has to be present in any action to be moral. An ethics of care, in contrast, is open to both rational and emotional motives for moral acts.

Although an ethics of justice pursues justice and human rights, an ethics of care values "sympathy, empathy, sensitivity, and responsiveness."[7] Care ethicists stress the importance of these emotion-based virtues to bring peace and reconciliation in conflicts. Thus, an ethics of care is recognized for its practical value. For example, Sheldene Simola points out the importance of an ethic of care in corporate crisis management.[8] In "An Ethics of Care or an Ethics of Justice," Warren French and Alexander Weis point out that decision-making in conflict resolution in business ethics is culturally bound; people in different countries apply justice and care in different degrees and ways.[9] They therefore recognize the vital role of emotion-based virtues in conflict resolution in business ethics.

In wars and conflicts, we see a call for justice from both sides. What is justice from one perspective is injustice from another perspective. An ethics of justice alone seems to have a limit in resolving conflicts. Virginia Held criticizes a rationalistic approach of dominant ethics as deficient: "But from the care perspective, moral inquiries that rely entirely on reason and rationalistic deductions or calculations are seen as deficient."[10] She argues that a rationalistic ethic of justice cannot resolve the conflict, and stresses the importance of emotion-based approach to ethics.

Partiality vs. Impartiality

Dominant modern ethical theories recognize moral reasoning as the pursuit of impartiality. Kantian ethics is very clear on this point. Despite one's natural inclinations to be partial towards certain people, e.g. family and friends, modern ethics takes those emotional feelings as "natural" and defines moral reasoning as an attempt to overcome those partial feelings. Impartiality is thus the primary requirement in ethical reasoning. For example, a Kantian duty arises from the rational understanding of personhood in every human being. Being moral is almost equivalent to being impartial. The Utilitarian ethic's maximization of happiness principle is also an attempt to overcome impartial personal feelings, as the utilitarian calculation is a rational mechanism to define a morally obligatory rule or action.

This does not mean, however, rationalistic ethics ignores special personal relationships. Kantian ethics, for example, does not totally ignore the parents' duty to their children. In response to care ethicists' criticism to Kantian ethics, Marilea Bramer defends how Kantian ethics recognizes moral duties in special personal relationships by arguing that the categorical imperative and the duty of respect "require that we give special treatment to friends and family because of their relationships with us."[11]

On the other hand, some care ethicists argue that Kantian ethics does not have the theoretical basis upon which to recognize the value of partial, caring relationships. Virginia Held acknowledges that Kantian ethics can provide reasons why all parents have a moral duty to care for their children. She argues, however, that Kantian ethics does not provide sufficient moral ground and reasons why a parent should care for his or her children prior to or over other children: "they may recognize a universal obligation for all parents to care for their children. But they do not permit actual relations ever to take priority over the requirements of impartiality."[12]

This tension between partial, natural emotional feelings and impartial reason in justifying acts as moral raises a number of questions. For example, is it morally justifiable for a parent to prioritize gift giving in favor of his or her child? Or should parents give gifts to needy children first or send them to a charity? Are parents morally guilty in caring for their children first? In other words, according to the schema of modern ethics, the distinction between partial emotional feelings and impartial reason may correspond to egoistic ends versus a duty to all humanity. Thus, is it morally right to care own children over others? If so, what is the justification?

Care ethics and Kantian ethics have opposite approaches to acts in personal relationships. Kantian ethics starts from an impartial moral duty to all humanity first and applies the impartial moral duty to particular cases. An ethics of care, on the other hand, finds moral value in special, partial, caring relationships themselves. A care ethics starts from particular experiences, primarily found in family relationships, and extends them to other people.

For Kantian ethics, partial feelings are "natural," and they are precisely what one has to overcome to reach a moral basis for impartial principles. Care ethics challenges this assumption. Is there nothing moral to one's special feelings for those who are close? Are one's special feelings for one's own children, spouse, and parents merely something one should overcome to reach impartial moral ground? Care ethics thus pursues a moral ground for partial feelings and actions, in opposition to dominant moral theories' pursuit of impartiality.

Once an ethics of care accepts partial emotional feelings, it encounters the problem of favoritism, egoism, nepotism, and even vengeful emotions. Care ethics introduces a distinction within the range of emotional feelings in order to avoid the problem. Held defines "sympathy, empathy, sensitivity, and responsiveness" as "moral feelings" that are desirable and distinguishes them from egoistic or vengeful feelings. In an effort to develop care ethics as a virtue theory, care ethicists such as Held define such desirable "moral feelings" as virtues. These ethicists, however, do not clearly define the relation between partial feelings and impartial reason. For this reason, some ethicists approach an ethics of care with caution. This issue will be addressed below in the criticism of care ethics.

Care Ethics, Aristotelian Ethics, and Confucianism

As a normative ethical theory, care ethics has some affinity with Aristotelian ethics and Confucianism. All three theories recognize the value of virtues de¬fined by close relationships. Aristotle discussed extensively on friendship. Confucian ethics is built upon virtues defined by family relationships, such as filial piety, loyalty, and fidelity. Although the dominant modern ethical theories are critical of an ethics of care, normative ethicists generally embrace the ethics of care. In "Aristotle: Founder of the Ethics of Care," Howard J. Curzer points out Aristotle's concept of philein, translated as "friendship," is much broader than what we usually mean by friendship and is closer to what care ethics means by "care" or caring.[13] In "Relation, Virtue, and Relational Virtue: Three Concepts of Caring," Shirong Luo explains the common ground between an ethics of care and Confucianism. Luo gives a comparative analysis between jen, the central concept in Confucian ethics, and "care" in an ethics of care.[14]

Care ethics distinguishes itself from these normative ethics on at least two points. First, both Aristotelian ethics and Confucianism share a male-dominated, patriarchal perspective. As ancient theories, they expounded on ethics in patriarchal, slave or feudal societies. Thus, those theories do not have an adequate understanding or the theoretical basis to regard the moral relevance of femininity. Second, Aristotelian and Confucian ethics are agent-based and therefore focus on the development of moral character of individuals. An ethics of care focuses on the "relationship," and its virtues are not agent-based but "relational virtues." Nevertheless, character-based Aristotelian ethics and a family virtue-based Confucian ethics share much common ground with an ethics of care. More research has yet to be done on the interconnections between the three.


Criticisms of an Ethics of Care

The main criticisms of an ethics of care, as raised by Kantians and Utilitarians, can be summarized into four points. First, the concept of care, which is central to an ethics of care, is vague. This theory seems to require an additional external principle to determine whether the care is right or wrong. Second, care ethics does not give an adequate answer to the question of favoritism and nepotism. Third, care ethics cannot solve the problem of the conflicts of virtues, a major issue in all virtue ethics. Fourth, care ethics does not have an internal mechanism to deal with vengeful feelings.

First, the concept of care is vague. Although ethics of care defines care as the central concept, "care" is a broad concept that covers diverse relationships that involve nurturing and helping others. Thus, Peter Allmark criticizes the vagueness of the concept of care.[15] He argues that care is not intrinsically good, "the person must care about the right things, have the right set of values," and "the person must care in the right way."[16] Since the judgment of right and wrong is external to care and outside of the framework of care ethics, Allmark dismisses a possibility of an ethics of care: "Thus, I conclude there can be no 'caring' ethics."[17]

Unlike the virtues of benevolence or mercy, care does not imply any moral meaning by itself. Thus, although "bad benevolence" is self-contradictory and nonsensical, care can be further characterized as good or bad without contradiction. Benevolence or jen in Confucianism is intrin¬sic¬ally good; the concept of care is not. Thus, the attribution of good-bad or right-wrong is external to the concept of care.[18]

Second, how can an ethics of care avoid unfair favoritism? If an ethics of care recognizes the value of emotional feelings and values partiality in relationships, how can one avoid unfair favoritism? We can extend this reasoning to racial groups, nation, and other communities. If partial caring is morally justifiable, how can one avoid racism, nationalism, and other sectarianism? This criticism can probably apply to Confucian ethics as well. It seems that an ethics of care, at this stage of development at least, does not have an internal mechanism to avoid this problem. The attempt to define and separate "moral emotions" as a distinct set of feelings seems to be inadequate. If an ethics of care has to introduce additional ethical principles, what principles will it adopt? Perhaps an ethics of care must adopt the very rational principles that it seeks to challenge.

Third, the conflict of virtues is a persistent problem of normative ethical theories.[19] The ethics of care is no exception. Virtues can be applied to any family or community or organization including crime organizations or tyrannical families. Filial piety to a superior in a criminal organization or a tyrant can conflict with fidelity to the general public. Care ethics theories do not have the internal mechanism to solve this moral dilemma. Needless to say, some kind of moral dilemma exists in all ethical theories. Nevertheless, the ethics of care does not provide an internal mechanism to avoid conflicts of virtues, a problem common to all normative ethics.

Fourth, emotional feelings can turn into negative ones such as hatred, vengeful feelings, and resentment. If, for example, a person one deeply cares for is hurt by someone else, one can develop resentment and vengeful feelings against the person who caused the harm. An ethics of care certainly does not endorse those destructive emotions. But the question remains: How does one overcome such negative feelings through an ethic of care? The appeal to "moral feelings" of benevolence, sensitivity, and receptiveness seems to be too weak.


Unificationist Perspective on Ethics of Care

Unification ethics shares some common perspectives with an ethics of care: the moral relevance of the family and recognition of the value of emotional feelings. Hence, some criticisms of an ethics of care are also relevant to Unification ethics. In this section, I will briefly present the Unificationist perspective to clarify its position and comment on the debate between care ethics and rationalist ethics.

Autonomy of the Individual: Reason and Love

Unification Ontology has two fundamental concepts of being: Individual Embodiment of Truth and Connected Body. When this perspective is applied to human existence, it gives two ways of seeing a human being. Each human being is a uniquely individuated manifestation of truth and, at the same time, he or she is an interdependent existence.[20] In other words, the Unificationist perspective is to view a human being with these two points of view: the human being is both a being in itself and a being in relationship with others. In ethical terms, these points of view signify the moral autonomy of individual and the individual's interdependence with others. Ethical theories such as Kantian ethics are built on the former point of view, and care ethics builds its theory on the latter. Unification ethics is built upon these dual co-primordial principles.

Yet, how do these two concepts relate? Is either one of them primary? In other words, should an ethical theory give primacy to the moral autonomy of an individual as a rational agent, or to the relationships in which the individual finds him or herself?

A rationalist ethics starts from the moral autonomy of the individual, while an ethics of care is vague on this point. Unificationism agrees with the presupposition of rationalist ethics. As Kant noted, an individual gives laws to himself (autonomous) in contrast to heteronomous (law is given from outside) natural objects.[21] In Unificationist terminology, each individual is an "individual embodiment of truth."[22]

Nevertheless, Unificationism also recognizes that relationships are built into the moral self. The relation between autonomy and interdependency, however, is a more complex matter. An individual is born out of the relationship between a father and mother. Without that relationship the child would not have come into existence. Without parents or caregivers, no newborn baby can survive. As care ethics points out, caring relationships are essential to the formation of the self and the home is an extension of the self. Thus, the moral agent's identity may be defined by his or her relationships with others. In practical terms, one's identity may be defined by what one "does" and how one "cares." In Unificationist terminology, one's "heart" primarily defines who that person is. Thus, relationships with others are built into the moral self. In other words, the morally autonomous individual exists and defines his or her identity through relationships.

Nevertheless, Unificationism still presupposes the moral autonomy of an individual. Unificationism argues that an individual has a realm of freedom which no one can intervene; even God cannot intervene. Moral responsibility of the individual rests on this point.[23]

The Unification Theory of Human Nature identifies three human natures as essential: heart (love), logos (reason), and creativity. These three traits are co-primordial and work together. Kantian ethics views reason as the primary faculty for moral discourse and care ethics views emotional feeling as the primary faculty.[24] As ethicists from both sides acknowledge, moral discourse is neither simply rule-following nor adherence to unexamined emotional feelings. The key element is how one can balance reasoned principles and emotional feelings in a given situation.

From the Unificationist perspective, a moral judgment is a synthetic balancing act that involves impartial reasoning and partial emotional feelings, rules and cases,[25] motives and consequences,[26] different virtues to different objects,[27] and considering specific contexts and situations. Thus, moral discourse is comparable to a hermeneutic act.[28] Interpretation is a complex, synthetic act that involves considering both part and whole, rules and contexts. For this reason, Unificationism recognizes the element of creativity in addition to reason and love.[29]

Unificationism agrees with care ethics on the moral relevance of emotional feelings. It also agrees with rationalist ethics and recognizes the crucial role of reason. Reason discerns, guides, and prescribes what actions should be taken to make love truthful and right. In Unificationism, love is the whole context of thoughts, cognition, experience, and action. Although reason is the primary faculty of moral discourse, reason alone does not make life meaningful. Love makes life meaningful. Unificationism views the cultivation of heart as the ultimate purpose of life.

Unificationism distinguishes authentic love from inauthentic love by the presence or absence of truth. Reason, as a primary faculty to discern truth from falsity, prescribes human actions to make love truthful. Truth is embedded in authentic love, and its absence leads to inauthentic love. Rational understanding of truth, cultivation of caring heart, and character building by repeated practice are co-primordial elements of ethics. Furthermore, every moral decision is made in a concrete, unique circumstance by a particular individual. Dynamic interplay among reason, love, and action take unique forms in creative decisions by moral agents.

Family as the Primary Moral Sphere

Unification ethics is a virtue ethics based upon the family. It holds that love is manifested in human relationships in the family in the form of parental love, conjugal love, children's love, and love among siblings. Thus, Unificationism agrees with care ethics that the family is the central setting where interdependent caring relationships are naturally found and cultivated.

Among love relationships in a family, Unificationism considers conjugal love as the basis for sexual ethics. One of unique perspectives in Unificationist ontology is the principle of yang (masculinity) and yin (femininity), which in an ethical context indicates the relationship between masculinity and femininity.[30] Unification ethics therefore has a potential to develop a gender-based approach in ethics, just as care ethics does. For example, Unification ethics views the conjugal relationship as the manifestation of the yang-yin principle.[31] Accordingly, sexual ethics is not a marginal practical ethics as many suppose but a central component of Unification ethics. The interdependent relationship between a husband and a wife is both spiritual and physical. The psycho-somatic interdependency between a husband and a wife culminates in sexual union and conception. This integration of sexual ethics into a main ethical theory distinguishes Unification ethics from other ethical theories including care ethics; care ethics is vague on the concept of marriage and its approach to sexual ethics.


Partiality and Impartiality: Is There a Solution?

The problem of partiality and impartiality is probably one of the most difficult problems for both care ethics and rationalist ethics. There are at least two approaches taken by care ethics and Kantian ethics respectively: a partial emotion-based approach and an impartial rationalist approach. There seems to be no easily reconcilable alternative.

On the one hand, care ethics questions how we can morally justify partial caring of special people, and argues that "care" itself is the fundamental value. For example, caring for one's own children, spouse, and parents as "special" is natural. Although Kantian ethics does not ignore special obligation to one's family members, care ethics holds that Kantian ethics does not fundamentally justify partial caring.

Kantian ethics, on the other hand, demands one to overcome these "natural feelings" and pursues impartial judgments. According to Kant, impartiality makes judgments and actions moral. Care ethicists argue that caring acts toward special people is morally commendable. For Kant, partiality is "natural" and the opposite of moral. For care ethics, partial caring relationships have the primary moral value and the Kantian duty is unrealistic and abstract.

How does one reconcile the two approaches? In "Care Ethics and Impartial Reasons," B. C. Postow examined Virgina Held's ethics of care. She acknowledges that Held does not claim to have a satisfactory account of how to balance care, impartial reason, and consequences (from a Utilitarian per¬spective). She instead points out that "we need new theories."[32] Considering the complexity of the problem, Postow concludes that we cannot expect to find a solution and suggests that we live with the indeterminate situation: "Presumably, there still will be considerable areas in which no guidance is forthcoming to help us reach an all-things-considered judgment."[33]

Although Unificationism does not have a fully developed way to reconcile this dichotomy of partiality and impartiality, it may be able to offer an alternative that accommodates both approaches. As briefly mentioned above, moral reasoning can be approached as a hermeneutic act. Moral reasoning involves weighing and balancing the impartial demands of reason and the partial demands of emotional feelings. Furthermore, the hermeneutic approach allows us to deal with conflicts of virtues, a major problem of virtue ethics. Moral discourse is a synthetic activity that balances multiple virtues and considers moral laws, particular contexts, motives and consequences, and historical backgrounds and future possibilities.

Can We Avoid Favoritism, Nepotism, and Unfair Treatment?

Admittance of partial emotional relationships seems to lead to favoritism, nepotism, and by extension racism, nationalism and sectarianism. If one feels special intimate feeling with people of the same racial origin, it can open the door to racism. Some principle of impartiality seems necessary to avoid unfair favoritism and nepotism. The question is what kind of, how, and to what extent an impartial principle is to be adopted within an ethics that accepts the moral relevance of partial emotional feelings.

The Unificationist framework of the part-and-whole dynamic can be adopted in an attempt to accommodate both impartial and partial principles. Each being has internal constitutive parts and, at the same time, is a part of the larger whole. For example, the family has individual members and at the same time is a part of a society or a community. The world is constituted of numerous layers of part-and-whole.

With this part-and-whole concept, one can apply both partial and impartial approaches at each level. The question is how to balance the two. Partial caring is not only justified but necessary to preserve each part. In a family, partial caring of each member is necessary and morally justifiable. Yet, fairness is also required in caring for the wellbeing of the whole family. Similarly, both partial caring and fairness are necessary for a community or an organization. Stated generally, there needs to be both at each level: partial caring for each part and fairness among all the parts for the wellbeing of the whole. This part-and-whole reasoning can be applied to every layer of society. Actual moral judgment in each case is, as stated before, a synthetic hermeneutic act that considers all the factors involved.

Thus, partial caring is necessary for the wellbeing of each entity, be it a family or a community. Partial caring, however, requires caring for other units (families, communities, etc.) and the whole. The ethics of the organic whole is maintained only when caring is given both to the parts and the whole. Altruism is the common thread that aligns the parts and the whole.

Unificationism views the world as having numerous layers of part-and-whole relationships. The fundamental unit is, nevertheless, the family in which interdependency and happiness is rooted. Unificationism extends the concept of a family to the world and views it as one-world-under-God. Having a theistic framework, however, raises theological questions such as the fairness of God's love and the concept of God.

In Unificationism, a personal and intimate relationship with God opens the way to an impartial perspective because God is a caring parent who loves all humankind. According to Unificationism, God is both a personal parent for each individual and the parent of all humankind. By developing an intimate, personal relationship with God, one can experience God's caring heart for all humankind. Consequently, the deeper one's relationship with God is, the more expansive one's heart becomes. Therefore, one's intimate relationship with God allows one to love others from this parental, impartial perspective that cares for all people.

How Can We Overcome Vengeful Feelings?

As one of criticism of care ethics pointed out, caring for a particular person can turn into hatred, resentment, and even vengeful feelings if the person cared for was hurt by someone else. An ethics of justice cannot solve the problem either. One person's justice is another person's injustice, and one person's fairness is another person's unfairness. In every conflict and war we witness a call for justice from both sides. Although an ethics of care presents itself as an ethics of peace and reconciliation, as an alternative to an ethics of justice, how can it avoid vengeful feelings? It seems to be that love and hatred are not easily separable, either by reason or emotion. Some vengeful feelings go beyond the individual, and there are feelings deeply rooted in history. Can "caring" solve resentments rooted in history? Is it necessary to have a trans-racial, trans-national, trans-communal framework? Is it necessary to step into the religious realm? These questions require further elaboration.

One way to resolve the problem of resentment is through the Unificationist practice of intercultural, international, interracial, and interreligious marriage. In Unificationism, the relationships found in the family extend to the whole world to constitute a global family under God the universal parent. The idea that all people are members of the same "one family under God" can be the basis for a global ethic. Such a global ethical theory based on the idea of a global family culminates in intercultural, interracial, international, and interreligious marriages. Such marriages and the love that binds such families have the potential to resolve deeply rooted feelings of resentment across races, cultures, and traditions.

Marital love is exclusive and partial. Nevertheless, Unificationism also recognizes the paradoxical duality of partiality and impartiality in true marital love. In particular, intercultural, interracial, international and interreligious marriages are an explicit recognition of openness to others while maintaining partial, exclusive feelings for another individual. Thus, just as a personal relationship with God can open a way to embrace the other,

marital love can also enable one to embrace a partner whose self-identity is constituted by different social, cultural, and religious traditions.



The ethics of care shares some common characteristics with two ancient patriarchal virtue ethics, Aristotelian ethics and Confucianism. Care ethics also challenges dominant rationalist theories by pointing out the moral relevance of familial relationships, emotional feelings, human beings' interdependency, and the masculine-feminine distinction in moral reasoning. A number of theorists, mainly on rationalist grounds, have raised criticisms and questions: impartiality vs. partiality; questions of favoritism and nepotism; vengeful emotions; the moral relevance of emotional feelings; and others. Unification ethics, as a family based virtue ethics, shares some common perspectives with care ethics. Those questions and criticisms of an ethics of care highlight two contrasting perspectives: the emotion-based approach and the rationalist approach. Unificationism has the potential to integrate the two approaches and to resolve some of these tensions.



[1] Feminist ethicists argue that the moral, rational, autonomous, independent agent presupposed in dominant ethical theories is an adult male.

[2] This raises the theological question regarding God and His relationship with human beings. The concept of God in Unificationism is closer to Open Theism. See John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2007).

[3] Nel Noddings, Starting at Home: Caring and Social Policy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), p. 1.

[4] Virginia Held, The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 10.

[5] Ibid., p. 11.

[6] Ibid., p. 10.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Sheldene Simola, "Ethics of Justice and Care in Corporate Crisis Management," Journal of Business Ethics 46 (2003).

[9] Warren French and Alexander Weis, "An Ethics of Care or an Ethics of Justice," Journal of Business Ethics 27/1-2 (2000): 125-136.

[10] Held, The Ethics of Care.

[11] M. Bramer, "The Importance of Personal Relationships in Kantian Moral Theory: A Reply to Care Ethics," Hypatia 25/1(2010): 121-139.

[12] Held, The Ethics of Care, p. 11.

[13] Howard Curzer , "Aristotle: Founder of the Ethics of Care," The Journal of Value Inquiry 41/2-4 (2007): 2-4.

[14] Shirong Luo, "Relation, Virtue, and Relational Virtue: Three Concepts of Caring," Hypatia 22/3 (2007): 92-110.

[15] Peter Allmark, in "Can There Be an Ethics of Care?" Journal of Medical Ethics 21/1 (1995): 19, notes: "caring ethics is hopelessly vague. It lacks both normative and descriptive content. This vagueness is due to an inadequate analysis of 'care.'"

[16] Ibid. p. 23.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Luo, "Relation, Virtue." Luo elaborates how the concept of jen (benevolence) is defined and works in Confucian ethics. The collaboration between centuries old Eastern patriarchal ethics and the newest Western feminist ethics is academically interesting and will be fruitful for both theories.

[19] The conflict of virtues is often a theme in tragedies or romantic literature.

[20] For an elaborated discussion of the concept of embodiment of truth, see Keisuke Noda, "Understanding the Word as the Process of Embodiment," Journal of Unification Studies 1 (1997): 7-15.

[21] Although Greeks and Romans used the concept of autonomy (self-governance) in the political sense, Kant made it one of central concepts in ethics. An individual is morally autonomous by virtue of the fact that one gives rational laws (nomos) to oneself.

[22] Unificationism also explains the three goals of life as the "three blessings": perfection of individual, multiplication of children (forming a family), and "dominion over the creation." Perfection of individual is thus presupposed in the formation of a family or a marriage.

[23] In Unificationism, a human being is distinguished from all things by virtue of his "portion of responsibility, with which even God does not interfere." In Exposition of the Divine Principle, heteronomy of all things and autonomy of human beings are described in reference to the different way to reach perfection. "All things reach perfection after passing through the growing period (the realm of indirect dominion) by virtue of the autonomy of and governance given by God's Principle. Human beings, however, are created in such a way that their growth requires the fulfillment of their own portion of responsibility, in addition to the guidance provided by Principle." Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1966), p. 43.

[24] Kant has an extensive discussion on the faculty of will not thoroughly covered from the viewpoint of an ethics of care.

[25] For example, in court, we examine each case individually. The application of laws to complex contexts, facts, and factors is a highly complex hermeneutic act.

[26] Kantian ethics looks to motives and Utilitarianism looks to consequences as determinative of right and wrong.

[27] The conflict of virtues is a major problem of all virtue ethics such as Aristotelian ethics and Confucianism. For example, one's filial piety to parents can conflict with one's loyalty to the nation or the organization.

[28] Moral discourse as a hermeneutic act is a field yet to be explored in Unification ethics.

[29] Some ethicists may use "imagination" instead of "creativity." Unificationism uses the latter since imagination connotes mental activity, whereas creativity implies both mental and physical activities. In Unificationism, moral discourse includes a practical dimension. The concept of "embodiment of truth" implies a substantiation of truth which requires physical actions.

[30] A masculine-feminine perspective did not appear until the rise of care ethics. Even in Far Eastern cultures, where the concept of Yin-Yang played a crucial role in the development of cultures, ethics has primarily been patriarchal. In a broader philosophical context, the male-female distinction was probably absent until Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception (New York: Humanities Press, 1962).

[31] Unificationism views the human being as the model of all beings. Thus, the conjugal relationship is the model of all Yin-Yang elements in the world.

[32] B. C. Postow, "Care Ethics and Impartial Reasons," Hypatia. 23/1 (2007): 1.

[33] Ibid., p. 7.