20th century moral philosophy largely affirmed that reknowned Enlightenment figures like Immanuel Kant were right to view the essence of morality as acts of free choice. The basis of morality lay in the sovereign will of the independent, autonomous individual – guided by a disinterested form of moral rationality. This tradition has also given us an influential way of thinking about what counts, morally speaking, about people: that they possess, thanks to their capacity for reasoned choice, a special status (as what Kant called ‘ends-in-themselves’). From this special status or dignity come human rights and the responsibility to protect them. But is this the full story?
In this Cafe, we explore other dimensions of morality, and in particular the role of dependency in human life. Drawing on the work of feminist philosophers and critics of the Enlightenment tradition, Chris Groves asks whether our habit of thinking about morality as centring on independent or autonomy blinds us to the moral significance of vulnerability, dependency and care, and considers the political significance of this blindness.
The date of this month’s Cafe is 18 September. As usual, the event is at The Gate, and runs from 8.00 – 10.00 pm.