Care and Responsibility in a Global Context

Open Access
Moosa, Christina Shaheen
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 13, 2015
Committee Members:
  • John Philip Christman, Dissertation Advisor
  • Nancy A Tuana, Committee Member
  • Sarah Clark Miller, Committee Member
  • Jonathan Harold Marks, Special Member
  • care ethics
  • global responsibility
  • climate change
In my dissertation, Care and Responsibility in a Global Context, I examine the challenge of articulating what individual responsibility requires in the face of global problems, such as climate change and global poverty. First, I examine the nature of global problems and explain why they challenge traditional understandings of moral responsibility. While attributions of responsibility typically hold in cases where the causes and effects of an act are immediate and intentionally committed, the causes of many global problems are both spatially and temporally diffuse and include contributions from agents ranging from states (e.g., through public policy) to individuals (e.g., through everyday life practices, such as filling up a gas tank or buying inexpensive clothing). Second, I examine the limitations of existing attempts in global and environmental ethics to ground claims of individual responsibility for global problems. Third, I argue that the ethics of care, which has been underutilized in philosophical debates in environmental and global ethics, can illuminate the nature of individual responsibility in these contexts in a way that avoids problems with existing accounts of global responsibility. To do so, I first respond to critiques that care ethics is overly focused on immediate and particular relations and cannot be applied to global settings. To overcome these criticisms, I examine the nature of care and develop an account of the duty to take care, i.e., the kind of obligation that agents have to care for general others. I then show how the duty to take care can be extended to global relations and argue that it requires agents to be attentive and responsive to the distant effects of their actions. Last, I apply this care-based understanding of individual responsibility to the issue of climate change. In doing so, my dissertation calls upon feminist moral theory to intervene in debates in global and environmental ethics on the difficult problem of explaining the kind of responsibility individuals have to respond to complex global problems.