Stefano Pinzan (Vita-Salute San Raffaele University)

Reason, Emotions and Helping Actions: Kant’s Ethics and The Ethics of Care

Time: Wednesday 22.5. 16.15-17.45

Place: Metsätalo, room 24, 5th floor


In this presentation, I aim to bridge the gap, at least partially, between Kant’s ethics and the ethics of care, born precisely out of a critique of the former (Gilligan 1982; Held 2006), by focusing on the interplay between reason and emotion in helping actions. This is part of an ongoing program of clarification of the value and role of the agent’s emotional life within Kant’s ethics (Herman 1993; Baron 1995; Borges 2019). I start with a critical analysis of the ethics of care, especially in its sentimentalist version (Pulcini 2020). I focus on the importance given to emotions in making the agent aware of the deep relationship of interdependence that binds her to others and the moral responsibility she has towards them. However, because of the limits to which emotions such as empathy are subject and the counterintuitive outcomes to which a solely emotion-driven model (Slote 2007) can lead, for many care theorists it is necessary to resort to rational tools and principles to critically sift and educate our emotions. It is from such a need for an interaction and integration of emotion and reason for a good care practice that I intend to trace the convergence between the ethics of care and Kant’s ethics. The latter is, in contrast to the ethics of care, a rationalist theory for which the requirement for helping action is to be justified through rational principles. However, contrary to what care theorists themselves claim, emotions also play a role for Kant. First, they are a constitutive part of the moral experience of the agent for they actively participate in the process of the determination of her will (Pinzan 2022). Moreover, they are necessary for the fulfillment of specific duties, playing both an epistemic and motivational role. Indeed, for the fulfillment of duties such as that, for example, of beneficence, Kant considers the presence of empathy, educated in a specific way by reason, to be necessary. In this way, I intend not only to show the importance of emotional life in the moral experience of the Kantian agent, but also to emphasize the similarity between Kant’s ethics and ethics of care on the interaction and integration of emotions and reason in helping actions.

Stefano Pinzan is a PhD student at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University and a visiting researcher at University of Helsinki.