Study Questions for Virginia Held's
"Feminist Transformations of Moral Theory"
in Cahn and Markie, eds., Ethics (2009)

by Dr. Jan Garrett

Revised August 2, 2010

The numbers following the questions correspond to the page numbers and columns in the text.

I have not created study questions for Section II of this article (pp. 731-33). If you wish to discuss Section II in your second major paper, you may wish, as preparation, to create and answer your own study questions related to this section.

1. From what perspective has the history of ethics been constructed? From a feminist point of view, what does moral theory need? (724)

[The History of Ethics]

2. How has rationality been conceived in each epoch? (724.2) To what should we be alert? (724.2-725.1)

3. What classical Greek philosophical distinction is traditionally correlated with the male/female distinction? (725.1, full ¶) What did this comparison mean regarding the nature of knowledge? (725.1, end of full ¶)

4. Why can't the association between philosophical concepts and gender merely be dropped? What, then, has ethics been all along? (725.1-2)

5. How has the public/private distinction reinforced the association between reason and masculinity, emotion and feminity? (725.2) How does Aristotle's writing and recent articles by Heyd and Urmson relate to her point? (725.2-726.1)

6. How does the omission of a type of experience from moral reflection explain the strange exclusion of some human activities from the context of morality? (726.1) Which type of experience is this?

7. What do the Hobbesian, Platonic, Rousseauian, and Kantian conceptions of reason have in common? (726.2)

8. How does Hobbes' elaboration of the state of nature exemplify the suppression of a dimension of life closely associated with women? How does this affect Hobbes' conception of original human nature? (726.2-727.1)

9. How does Kant "pay homage" to a supposed strength of the women? Does he think women are moral equals of men? Explain. (727.1)

10. What does Annette Baier think explains why moral philosophy has seriously overlooked the trust between human beings that is central to moral life? (727.1-2)

11. What are "very good reasons" for women not to want simply to be granted "entry as equals into the enterprise of morality as so far developed"? (727.2)

12. Why will there likely not be a "star" feminist moral theorist? (728.1)

13. Why are some feminists skeptical of attempts to give positive value to traditional "feminine virtues"? (728.1) Why are others skeptical of all claims about women as such? (728.1)

[Reason and Emotion]

14. How does reason have priority in the Kantian approach to moral choice? (728.2)

15. How does reason have priority in the utilitarian approach? In what sense should emotional attitudes be disregarded? (728.2-729.1)

16. How are these two approaches similar? (729.1)

17. How do many feminist thinkers question these approaches? (729.1)

18. How does women's moral experience seem to differ from men's moral experience? According to Walker, how does feminist moral understanding contrast with traditional notions of moral knowledge? (729.2)

19. What is the relevance of Gilligan's research to this issue? (729.2)

20. In what two ways are feminists reevaluating emotion's place in morality? (729.2-730.1)

21. How can feminists respond to the charge that feminist ethics will degenerate into a relativist "situation ethic"? (730.2)

22. Is commitment to justice conceived on liberal individualist terms psychologically plausible without insights supplied by feminist thought? (731.1)

[The Concept of Self]

23. With what "poles" has traditional ethics dealt? (733.1) What has tended to be left out? (733.1-2)

24. How have family relations, friendship, and group ties tended to be seen? (733.2)

25. The moral aspects of what has standard ethics neglected? (733.2 top)

26. What now can be seen as artificial and problematic? In the domain of "particular others" how is the self "already constituted"? (733.2) What does this mean? (You cannot answer this simply by directly quoting the author.)

27. What parts of liberal theory* and most standard moral theory are suspect from the perspective of much feminist theory? (733.2) Would these parts be free from suspicion even if gender discrimination against women ended abruptly tomorrow? Explain, in part by discussing what we now know about the relationship between mothering person and child. (733.2-734.1)

28. Of what is Bernard Williams a critic? Why is his approach inadequate, for Held? (734.1)

29. In what ways do communitarian criticisms of liberal assumptions fall short? What aspects become salient when ethics focuses upon relationships? (734.1-2)

30. According to Chodorow, how do daughters develop a sense of self? sons? (734.1-2)

31. In the studies of Gilligan and others, what new goal becomes important? Why is this rarely achieved in adult male-female relationships, according to the Stone Center psychologists? (735.1-2)

32. What does Jennifer Nedelsky question? (735.2) Why does she think this idea is wrong-headed and destructive in thinking about individual-state relationships? (735.2-736.1)

33. What is property, really? What will provide what it seeks to offer? (736.1)

34. Of what has liberalism been the source?* What does it lack the ability to express? (736.1 end of 1st full ¶) How does Nedelsky urge us to conceive autonomy? (736.2)

35. What metaphor is more promising for conceiving autonomy than bounded property? (736.1-2)

36. What concerns are expressed by Alison Jaggar? (736.2, full ¶)

37. What overall implication does Held draw in her final paragraph? (736.2-737.1)

NOTE: "Liberalism" and "liberal theory" refer to a way of doing political philosophy exemplified by John Locke, Kant, J. S. Mill, John Rawls, and "libertarians" like Robert Nozick.)