Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1936-) Psychologist at Harvard University. Has written on differential views of morality between men and women.

Gilligan's most well-known statement of her views is In a Different Voice (Harvard University Press 1982). There she argues that, unlike men, women in our society tend to regard moral questions in terms of responsibilities and potential harm to others rather than in terms of abstract ethical principles. Gilligan takes issue with moral development theorists, such as Lawrence Kohlberg, who posit a progression through moral stages culminating in an ability to make moral judgments from universalistic moral principles. She maintains that women's moral development goes through similar stages that involve increasingly comprehensive, differentiated and reflective forms of moral thought. However, women tend to construct moral problems in terms of care and responsibility rather than rights and rules. She maintains that the male-centered focus on abstract ethical principles ignores important aspects of women's moral development and leads to unfairly categorizing many women as being less morally developed because of their failure to fit a male model of morality. Gilligan emphasizes an elucidation of the dynamics of women's moral development without any detailed examination of the cultural roots and dynamics of differential female moral development.

Named "Woman of the Year" in 1984 by Ms. Magazine , Gilligan has received numerous honorary degrees.

See also Moral Development

Edward F. Breschel


K. Davis, "Toward a Feminist Rhetoric," Women's Studies International Forum 15(1992):219-231

C. Gilligan, "Moral Development in the College Years," in The Modern American College , ed. A. Chickering (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1981): 139-157

C. Gilligan et al. (eds.), Mapping the Moral Domain (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988)

A. Mason, "The Gilligan Conception of Moral Maturity," Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 20(1990):167-179

V. A. Sharpe, "Justice and Care," Theoretical Medicine 13(1992):295-318.

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