The richness and complexity of the article ‘Taking Refuge in the Arts’ by care ethicist Frans Vosman († 2020), is conveyed through a dense text which is sometimes difficult to fully grasp. Its richness only becomes apparent upon repeated reading. In an introduction to this article, web editor Jeannet van de Kamp ties together different strands in his work, leading up to the thoughts expressed in the article.
In the fall of 2014 care ethicist Frans Vosman opened in Oxford a series of lectures by international care ethicists, the Oxford Seminar Series Care practices: towards a recasting of ethics (also on our website), with his keynote The ethics of care: a political ethical roadmap In this lecture, Frans Vosman essentially outlines the challenges facing care ethics, if it is to maintain its critical power in late modernity. The slides accompanying this lecture you will find here
In 2020, shortly before Vosman’s death, a book is published – Ethics of Care: the State of the Art – in which the authors continue to build on the Oxford lectures. Vosman titles his contribution The Disenchantment of Care Ethics: A Critical Cartography.
Once again, he emphasizes the need to develop care ethics into a contemporary political ethics. According to his thesis, within care ethics complex (care) practices, phenomena, and new burning issues are insufficiently reflected upon and recognized as being issues in a changed late modernity.
Between 2014 and 2020, Vosman wrote several articles in which he, either alone or with others, explained the need for a next step for care ethics. We will mention a few examples here.
We should look for fellow travelers Already for some time now a form of sociology of everyday life has been dealing with late modernity – also known as hypermodernity – as a new, extremely tension-filled phase within modernity. Late modernity is characterized, among other things, by the culture’s focus on, and the experiential economic exploitation of individual experience of life. It is about the (self)creation of ‘positive’ experiences; ‘negative’ experiences, difficult life and suffering are left out.
Vosman’s essay Unbridled Care (translated from Dutch by Brian Heffernan) illustrates the ambivalent and disturbing ramifications of the aesthetical and psychological frame of a ‘positive’ approach. The ways in which care ethics may escape this type of framing can be read in The moral relevance of lived experience .
Among other things, Rethinking critical reflexion on care, a publication by Alistair Niemeijer and Frans Vosman and Digging into care practices, an article by Frans Vosman, Andries Baart, and Guus Timmerman, delve into various late modern burning issues from the perspective of care ethics.
Last but not least, we point out Vosman’s farewell lecture (dated 15-06-2018), which is soon to be published in English on this website.
Frans Vosman stresses the importance of the question ‘what is the meaning of what we perceive?’ Perception is incorrigibly permeated by our subjectivity. In her blog of 15-01-2021, Frans Vosman and the Arts, editor Tessa Smorenburg describes how a lecture by Frans Vosman shaped her everyday perception on the Arts and Care.
Taking Refuge in the Arts
In his essay ‘Taking Refuge in the Arts’, Vosman seeks, on the one hand, to think politically and ethically about the instrumentalization of the arts, in order to create nice experiences with sick, suffering people (by co-creation). Vosman calls this “getting a handle on the experience”. On the other hand he aims to politically and ethically think about how the arts can truly comfort sick, suffering people.
Care ethicist Annelies van Heijst has stated the ‘comforting until the bitter end’ to be an essential part of care.
(Introduction to the article: Jeannet van de Kamp)
You can read the article here
Image: The Pillow, Berlinde De Bruyckere (2010), see article