Tronto’s Moral Boundaries

Each year I teach the introductory course on care ethics during which we do a close reading of this groundbreaking book. Joan Tronto lays the groundwork for thinking about care as practice, as morality, and as political orientation. Her analysis of how ‘moral boundaries’ prevent us from interweaving the public and the private, moral theory and everyday practical ethics, and morality and politics, inspires me every time. Liminality, to me and drawing upon Tronto’s thought, would mean moving back and forth between others and myself, between society and personal sphere, between what I do on a daily basis and what I have learned from philosophy, between morality and political views. This movement in the space between us and its repercussions for care, have been beautifully expressed in this sentence: 

“Responsiveness suggests a different way to understand the needs of others rather than to put our selves into their position. Instead, it suggests that we consider the other’s poistion as that other expresses it. Thus, one is engaged from the standpoint of the other, but not simply by presuming that the other is exactly like the self. From such a perspective, we may well imagine that questions of otherness would be more adequately addressed than they are in current moral frameworks that presume that people are interchangeable.
Adequate responsiveness requires attentiveness, which again shows the way in which these moral elements of care are intertwined.”

(Tronto, 1993, p. 136)

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