Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 499–508 | Cite as

Love and justice’s dialectical relationship: Ricoeur’s contribution on the relationship between care and justice within care ethics

Original Contribution


The relationship between love/care and justice was one of the key tensions from which care ethics originated; to this very day it is subject of debate between various streams of thought within care ethics. With some exceptions (e.g. Christa Schnabl) most approaches have in common the belief that care and justice are mutually exclusive concepts, or at least as so different that their application is situated on different levels. Hence, both are complementary, but distinct, so that there is no real interaction. This paper aims to investigate whether, and if so, how, a deeper understanding of Ricoeur’s thoughts on this matter enriches the relationship between care and justice with respect to care ethics. This connection suggests itself from Ricoeur’s interpretation of the relationship as a dialectical one in which the logic of superabundance (love) and the logic of equivalence (justice) meet. Care enables people to see the face and individuality of the one, ‘le chacun,’ within the anonymous structures of justice that tend to reduce all human beings to the anonymous each, ‘le on’; justice in its turn is the precondition for love to become incarnated and made real. What may this view—of care and justice standing in close connection, in which they correct and strengthen each other—add to the understanding of concrete practices of care?


Care ethics Justice Love Ricoeur 


  1. Benhabib, S. 1992. The generalized and the concrete other. In Ethics: A feminist reader, ed. E. Frazer, J. Hornsby, and S. Lovibond, 267–300. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  2. Bubeck, D.E. 1995. Care, gender and justice. New York: Oxford University Press & Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Clement, G. 1996. Care, autonomy and justice: Feminism and the ethic of care. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  4. Engster, D. 2007. The heart of justice: Care ethics and political theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Flanagan, O., and K. Jackson. 1993. Justice, care and gender: The Kohlberg–Gilligan debate revisited. In An ethic of care: Feminist interdisciplinary perspectives, ed. Mary J. Larrabee, 69–84. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Friedman, M. 1995. Beyond caring: The de-moralization of gender. In Justice and care: Essential writings in feminist ethics, ed. V. Held, 61–77. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  7. Gilligan, C. 1982. In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Held, V. 2006a. The ethics of care. In The oxford handbook of ethical theory, ed. D. Copp, 537–566. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Held, V. 2006b. The ethics of care: Personal, political and global. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Jaggar, A.M. 1995. Caring as a feminist practice of moral reason. In Justice and care: Essential readings in feminist ethics, ed. V. Held, 179–202. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  11. Katzenstein, M.F., and D. Laitin. 1987. Politics, feminism and the ethics of caring. In Woman and moral theory, ed. E.F. Kittay, and D.T. Meyers, 261–281. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  12. Miller, S.C. 2010. Cosmopolitan care. Ethics and Social Welfare 4(2): 145–157.Google Scholar
  13. Moore, M. 1999. The ethics of care and justice. Women & Politics 20(2): 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Noddings, N. 1984. Caring: A feminist approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  15. Okin, S.M. 1989. Reason and feeling in thinking about justice. Ethics 99: 229–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ricoeur, P. 1965. History and truth (trans: C.E. Kelbley). Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ricoeur, P. 1990. The golden rule. New Testament Studies 36(3): 392–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ricoeur, P. 1991. Love and Justice. In Radical pluralism and truth: David Tracy and the hermeneutics of religion, ed. W.G. Jeanrond, and J.L. Rike, 187–202. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  19. Ricoeur, P. 1994. Oneself as another (trans: K. Blamey). Chicago and London: The Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Ricoeur, P. 1998. Une obeisance aimante. In Penser la Bible, ed. A. LaCocque, and P. Ricoeur, 162–195. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  21. Ricoeur, P. 2000. The just (trans: D. Pellauer). Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. Ricoeur, P. 2005. The course of recognition (trans: D. Pellauer). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Schwickert, E.M. 2005. Gender, morality, and ethics of responsibility: Complementing teleological and deontological ethics. Hypatia 20(2): 164–187.Google Scholar
  24. Sevenhuijsen, S. 2003. The place of care: The relevance of the feminist ethic of care for social policy. Feminist Theory 4: 179–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Thomasset, A. 1996. Paul Ricoeur: Une poétique de la morale: Aux fondement d’une éthique herméneutique et narrative dans une perspective chrétienne. BETL 124. Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters.Google Scholar
  26. Tronto, J.C. 1993. Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Theology and Religious StudiesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations