The Ethics of Care of the Self as Resistance to a “Peculiar Institution”
Morality , Ethics , Morality Systems , Care of the Self , G.E.M. Anscombe , Michael Stocker , Bernard Williams , Susan Wolf , Michael Foucault , Modern Ethical Theories , Malady of Spirit , Kantianism , Utilitarianism , Virtue Ethics , Constitution of the Subject
This thesis discusses some of the critiques of modern moral theories (deontology, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics) posed by Elizabeth Anscombe, Michael Stocker, Bernard Williams, and Susan Wolf. It focuses on Stocker’s challenge that when subjects try to act on such theories they become self-effacing in that they create a divide between one’s reasons and one’s motives. This study argues that in consequence such modern ethical theories have serious difficulties in dealing with the issues these philosophers raise. Nevertheless, while valuing their contributions, I attempt to formulate a more plausible solution to the problems of morality systems. In particular, I argue that these approaches have not dealt adequately with the following questions: If morality systems are repressive and exclude the personal life, why are they still so influential? Why have not people rid themselves of systems that act to the detriment of ethical life? To address such issues, with the intention of understanding how morality systems operate, I turn to Michel Foucault’s concept of disciplinary power. After discussing the problem of the pervasiveness of modern ethical theories, I conclude by making a case for Foucault’s ethics of the care of the self as a way of addressing the problems raised by Stocker and others.