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Michael Hendricks

Mentor Department

Politics and Government


Both deontological and consequentialist notions of ethics have been duly criticized, the former due to the problem of universal maxims that ignore the delicate intricacies of situations that demand contextual understanding and the latter for ignoring the various moral processes that precede actions. This disillusionment has led some feminists to adopt the ethics of care as a way to subvert patriarchal tones and dehumanizing themes in moral discourse as well a moral relativism that has often been categorized as the ethics of the postmodern age. Yet all normative moral theories, including the ethics of care and moral relativism, posit that the individual is necessarily at the center of any moral equation, as she is the source of all actions of moral consideration. However, I will argue that current debates surrounding morality continue to enforce dehumanizing notions of ethics insofar as the insistence that moral acts and actors are separate foci of interest. Rather than elucidating the complexities of moral discourse and thereby revealing hidden ideological underpinnings, ethical matters continue to obfuscate power relations by maintaining the chasm between acts and their actors. In doing so, moral acts become disembodied, in a sense, and detached from its actor in an alienating relationship that emphasizes neither care nor respect for personhood. In this manner, I will argue that moral acts can never be “separated” from their actors, for in doing so morality becomes external to actors, and therefore subject to abuses of power that reinforce a process of ideological dehumanization. There are therefore no such things as moral “acts”. It is only by understanding the inseparability of acts and actors that a morality of and for the oppressed can materialize through the actualization of the truly unified moral actor.

There Are No Such Things As Moral Acts: Conceptualizing A New Moral Framework For The Oppressed