Caring Connections: From Conventional to Postconventional Perspectives

Angela Keller
Communication, Boise State University
October, 2001
 

Abstract

The thesis shows how Carol Gilligan’s book In A Different Voice contributes to a feminist perspective advocating for empathy as a criterion necessary for intersubjective acts of communication through an examination of Gilligan’s concept of care. This analysis begins by documenting Gilligan’s development of a care-as-morality perspective, by showing both her similarities and differences with the psychological model of cognitive development proposed by Lawrence Kohlberg, upon which Gilligan extensively relies. Chapter One introduces the thesis as a reinterpretation project for the concept of "care." Chapter Two elaborates the conceptual articulation of care through a critical appropriation of Gilligan’s analysis of cognitive developmental stages that aim to promote social change. After describing the shortcomings of Gilligan’s conception of care as expressed through these developmental stages, the thesis moves to Chapter Three, to discuss how the stories Gilligan incorporates to articulate "care" contain an implied, but better, alternative for conceptualizing care: a story-based notion of care. The thesis concludes that the concept of care can shed divisions by, and conventional ties to, gender. Chapter Four develops the point through a case example of care that challenges gender-specific conceptions of care. This example, the thesis concludes, speaks to the identification Gilligan is after: the "care voice" as a voice that both genders can "speak." Such a postconventional voice points beyond empathy to recommend intersubjective conceptions of care as acts that illustrate the importance of a care voice for a theory of communicative action.
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