Ethics in Light of Childhood
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Childhood faces humanity with its own deepest and most perplexing questions. An ethics that truly includes the world's childhoods would transcend pre-modern traditional communities and modern rational autonomy with a postmodern aim of growing responsibility. It would understand human relations in a poetic rather than universalistic sense as openly and interdependently creative. As a consequence, it would produce new understandings of moral being, time, and otherness, as well as of religion, rights, narrative, families, obligation, and power.
Ethics in Light of Childhood fundamentally reimagines ethical thought and practice in light of the experiences of the third of humanity who are children. Much like humanism, feminism, womanism, and environmentalism, Wall argues, a new childism is required that transforms moral thinking, relations, and societies in fundamental ways. Wall explores childhood's varied impacts on ethical thinking throughout history, advances the emerging interdisciplinary field of childhood studies, and reexamines basic assumptions in contemporary moral theory and practice.
In the process, he does not just apply ethics to childhood but applies childhood to ethics -- in order to imagine a more expansive humanity.
fixations, and hubris by opening the mind to creative new horizons. It is the self ’s constant moral expansion. If so, then moral thinking also has a religious dimension of stretching the human imagination toward its own beyond. The problem with religious morality, as we have seen, often lies in its self-righteous certitude. Traditions are thought to have provided the timelessly correct moral answer, narrative, or perspective. This fixedness is supported by adult-based conceptions of the divine:
person or group. It is to some extent inevitable that talk about humanity is dehumanizing. But for children in particular, the problem is complicated by the fact that they cannot, on the whole—nor should they—be held as responsible as adults for making their own particular experiences of humanity known. Children’s ethical complexity is especially readily obscured. Overturning historical biases about childhood will take more than empirical investigation, helpful though this is. It will also
independent autonomy. The basis for responding to others is thought to lie in the fact that others possess their own social rationality or freedom. As feminists and others have recently pointed out, such a basis for moral life is open to various kinds of criticism. Above all, it leaves open the question of how moral “rationality” itself is to be defined and who has the power to construct it. When it comes to children, the problem becomes even more acute. For so long as human dignity is grounded
an ethical person, one accountable not only to God but also to humanity. Of course, we do not find any meaningful agency in Isaac himself, and his voice is limited only to the question he asks his father. He is merely led and bound. Nevertheless, Abraham’s “here I am” to Isaac, insofar as it is ethical, is far from being merely passive. Rather, it shows a complex inner struggle to give his son some kind of meaningful response. Because Isaac is his child, Abraham cannot simply receive his moral
Bible. The poetry of the Psalms and the Song of Songs is sometimes wild with divine intoxication, as the beloved other draws the poet toward the sublime. The prophets sometimes announce that, despite Israel’s waywardness, God’s love still persists. Paul’s letters come back to the constant “how much more” of loving and hoping through grace. And the love command of Jesus involves extending love for one another even to one’s enemies: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who