Ethics of Care Analysis

historical case study

In this paper, I would like to provide my detailed and thorough analysis of a historical case study in terms of Noddings’s theory known as the ethics of care that has interested me greatly. It is important to mention that there exist various ethical insights that contribute much to people’s perception of the world. Moreover, each ethical theory encompasses essential principles and key terminology that are peculiar only to it. As for me, I have chosen for my research a historical case study “Conflict of Interest – Wife’s Investment in Project” from the NSPE website. Therefore, to reach a balanced and rational conclusion, I would like to investigate the given situation in relation to the ethics of care that lays great stress on the following concepts: the notions of the one-caring and the one cared-for, the interdependence of people, natural caring, sentiments, engrossment, motivational displacement, apprehending the other’s reality, and consequences.

Presenting and Evaluating Historical Case Study

The case study titled “Conflict of Interest – Wife’s Investment in Project” deals with the following situation. John Doe, who occupies the position of the city engineer of a municipality, has not managed to provide basic information on his wife’s investment in one of the projects that he has approved earlier. Shortly afterwards, the organization he had worked for exposed the truth that came as a great shock to the public (NSPE Board of Ethical Review, 1966). As a result, John Doe’s unprofessional behavior while performing his duties became a decisive factor and a sole reason that had caused his instant dismissal.

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Undoubtedly, there is convincing evidence that John Doe has violated the law. He is certainly guilty because his actions have contravened the rules of professional conduct. In fact, the engineer ought to reveal all possible financial interests and business connections that may have a significant impact on the quality of his work as well as his professional decisions. Nevertheless, he resorted to drastic measures and kept in secret the fact that his spouse had invested in the project he had adopted. As a consequence, one has the grounds to state that John Doe has committed a crime against the public and the city officials while assisting his wife in reaching her ultimate aim.

A Historical Case Study in Terms of the Ethics of Care

In accordance with the ethics of care, it is of vital importance to differentiate between two basic notions: the cared-for and the one-caring. The one-caring is a person who shows concern about other people’s lives in order to invoke a feeling of contentment, while on the other hand, the cared-for is the one who accepts care, giving nothing in return (Birsch, 1999, p.159). According to the chosen case, John Doe behaves as the one-caring who wants to satisfy his spouse’s interests and needs. On the contrary, his wife holds the position of the cared-for and, of course, benefits from her husband’s support. Consequently, one can deduce that John Doe acts due to the general norms of the ethics of care.

John Doe treats his wife out of care, love, and respect. As he wants to fulfill his role as a devoted and loyal husband, his core aim is to act in favor of his loved person. Natural caring that determines Doe’s conduct is a primary source of his moral obligation to meet his partner’s needs. Examining a given situation in terms of Noddingtons’s theory, one can see that the engineer’s manner of behavior is the vivid example of the ethics of care that claims that natural caring is considered to be the ultimate relationship (Birsch, 1999, p.159). As a result, Doe neglects his self-interests and needs because his prime objective is to provide assistance to his wife.

More to say, Noddings’s theory is not reason-based as it rests upon sentiment as “The moral weight is on the person to act for the benefit of the other in a specific caring situation and not on rules …” (Birsch, 1999, p.162). According to this principle, John Doe’s conduct towards his wife is thought to be morally right regardless of the fact that he does not follow any rules and disobeys the law. Indeed, he strives to make his spouse satisfied and delighted because she will receive what she wants and achieve the desirable consequences.

In practice, in the above-described story, a twofold relationship is observed. On the one hand, John Doe holds the position of the city engineer who has obligations to all citizens and who is responsible for the well-being of his city. On the other hand, he is a loving and caring husband who does his best to make his partner happy. As a consequence, the man decides to conduct the above-mentioned actions on behalf of his spouse. Such a behavior is considered to be right regarding the ethics of care. Noddings states that we are responsible for the people with whom we have strong emotional connections and caring relations (Birsch, 1999, p.162). Needless to say, John Doe’s wife is closer and more important to him than all inhabitants of the city. Therefore, the engineer is driven by the desire to take care of his family member rather than people with whom he is not on intimate terms, moreover, with whom he is not acquainted.

Generally, John Doe is characterized as a doting, faithful, helpful, and affectionate family man. It is worth mentioning that he concentrates all his efforts on his wife’s feelings, emotions, and needs. He is dedicated to her, and, thus, he aspires to satisfy all the needs that play a prominent role in her life. In addition to this, thoughts of care and love completely preoccupy his consciousness and deeds. He worries about his wife’s plans and intentions. What is more, he is motivated by the desire to offer his help in dealing with problems. On the whole, his circle of interests is disregarded and preserved to a minimum. Evidently, the above-described manner of conduct corresponds to the ideals of the ethics of care that encompasses three key components: apprehending the other’s reality, engrossment as well as motivational displacement (Birsch, 1999 p.159). Thus, to some extent, the engineer is obsessed with his wife’s interests rather than concentrated on his needs.

The previously mentioned incident is considered in two entirely different ways in regards to Noddingtons’s theory that lays great emphasis on the fact that every situation is unique as well as objectively positive or negative and, therefore, it requires different measures to be taken (Birsch, 1999, p.166). What is thought to be useful in one case is entirely useless in another situation. John Doe treats his wife in the best manner. Naturally, he has no intentions to deceive his colleagues and to do serious harm to residents of the city. In effect, he acts with the best motives to meet his wife’s requirements. As a result, his actions are advantageous to his spouse as well as disadvantageous to his company and his career at the same time. Being beneficial to his wife’s interests, to the prosperity of her business, and professional career, his actions are bad for him because after his discharge from a company, he should live on a tight budged; moreover, his employer can bring criminal charges against him.

Another essential fact of crucial importance should be presented. Considering the given situation, John Doe is not only a criminal but he also holds the position of a sufferer. Obviously, his behavior is highly beneficial to his wife but, unfortunately, it causes irreparable damage to his life and well-being. In fact, he loses his favorite job, while his egregious mistakes have ruined his reputation as a professional and diligent worker. As a result, he has found himself in a complicated and unfortunate situation with no way out and with no glimmer of hope. Noddings’s theory disapproves such dreadful consequences because actions of the one-caring are examined to be detrimental to him. Thus, they are not right in relation to a given theory that advocates that the behavior of a person who takes care should be advantageous for the cared-for, and yet, not harmful in any way to the life and well-being of the one-caring (Birsch, 1999, p.166). It is a fact that John Doe assists his wife, but at the same time, he aggravates his life situation greatly. In this case, one can deduce that he can support his wife’s projects only in accordance with the law standards in order not to endanger himself and not to cause damage to his career.


Taking everything into consideration, I have come to a logical conclusion that this case is at variance with the ethics of care. Although meeting almost all its requirements, it contradicts its fundamental principle: not to cause harm to self or not to sacrifice one’s happiness while helping the others. Judging from Noddingtons’s theory, the best decision for John Doe in this situation is to operate entirely within the law to not only help his wife but also to preserve his unblemished reputation as well as to pursue a successful career. First and foremost, he should reveal to his colleagues and the public his family connections that could be interpreted as those that have a profound impact on his personal interests. Otherwise, John Doe should be accused of criminal negligence.

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