The French Voice: Sandra Laugier

In this first edition of the series The French Voice, we present our interview with Sandra Laugier.

The current discourse on the Ethics of Care in France has great potential to contribute to the broader international discussion surrounding the Ethics of Care. The French discourse is mostly presented only in the French language, and therefore has remained hitherto largely unrecognised by the international community. In an attempt to expand the French voice to a broader audience editorial board members Tessa Smorenburg and Madzy Dekema of www.ethicsofcare.org visited Paris (FR) to interview some of the leading scholarly experts in the field. In the coming months, ethicsofcare.org will publish these interviews in the new series: The French Voice.

In this first edition of The French Voice, we present our interview with Sandra Laugier. Laugier is a French philosopher, currently she is professor of philosophy at the University of Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne in France. The subject of this interview is her book Politics of the Ordinary – Care, Ethics, and Forms of Life (2019), a new edition in the series Care Ethics by Peeters Publishers (Leuven, BE) which will be published by the end of 2019.

Firstly, in this interview Sandra Laugier expands on one of the propositions in her book: in a theoretical sense the ordinary has been variously denied, undervalued, or neglected. Also, she expands on the relevance of Ordinary Language Philosophy, a linguistic phenomenology, for the Ethics of Care.

“To Care is about our close ones, and the people we do not know as well”

Secondly, Sandra Laugier gives an explanation of the care ethical concepts of dependency and vulnerability and the notions of security and insecurity. On this subject, she contends care is about connection and protection, especially when someone’s well-being depends on the other. She expresses her concerns towards Joan Tronto’s definition of Care, to wit: “To Care” is about our close ones, and the people we do not know as well.

Thirdly, Sandra Laugier elaborates on the notion of vulnerability. According to her, vulnerability suggests an “ordinary life” context where human beings find their needs and interests, and fragilities are exposed. How does this notion relate to the issue of citizenship and democracy? She argues that the Ethics of Care provides the insight that we depend on one another, but the concept of autonomy is strongly presented in our society and policymaking.

“Nowadays the Ethics of Care is seen as a political weapon”

The last question posed to Sandra Laugier relates to the historical context at the time the Ethics of Care was introduced in France. Laugier was one of the French scholars who introduced the Ethics of Care to France. According to her, Carol Gilligan’s book In a Different Voice (1982) was in her words “something to be forgotten” in French patriarchal society which is dominated by the concept of justice. Nevertheless, nowadays the Ethics of Care is seen as a political weapon in France, she says.

About Sandra Laugier
Sandra Laugier is Professor of Philosophy at Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris, France, and a Senior member of Institut Universitaire de France. She is Deputy Director of Institut des sciences juridique et philosophique de la Sorbonne (UMR 8103, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne et CNRS). She has extensively published on ordinary language philosophy (Wittgenstein, Austin), moral philosophy (moral perfectionism), gender studies (ethics of care), American philosophy (Cavell, Thoreau, Emerson), popular culture (film and TV series), and about democracy and civil disobedience.

Collage ©Tessa Smorenburg 2019

About the author: Tessa Smorenburg

Tessa Smorenburg

Tessa Smorenburg (1987) graduated as a master in Ethics of Care and Policy at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht (NL) in 2015. Her thesis concerned the discourse of transgender people in Dutch society.
She now cooperates with artists, assuming the role of journalist, and makes use of her knowledge and experience in the field of the ethics of care to provide perspective.
In her own artistic endeavours, like the collages that are her trade, she is intrigued by issues of gender and examining her position in society from a female perspective.

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