Taking Refuge in the Arts

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


About the author: Frans Vosman

Frans Vosman

Prof. dr. Frans Vosman studied moral theology and philosophy at Nijmegen University and did a doctorate on economical ethics in Paris and Rome. Professor Louis Vereecke was his promotor. He was engaged in medical ethics before he took interest in the ethics of care, at Tilburg University, where he was professor ethics of care. He held a chair ethics of care at the University of Humanistics, Utrecht. He was interested in combining conceptual and empirical ethics and in the fundamental political character of the ethics of care. Together with colleagues he did research in a general hospital about patients perspectives and research with regard to people with an intellectual disability. He focused on the ethics of care as a form of fundamental political ethics, He considered the connections with other forms of political ethics, with epistemology and political forms of phenomenology to be quintessential. Frans Vosman died in June, 2020

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