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Maternal ethics are an approach to formulating ethical theory by holding the mother-child relationship to be central. The paradigm for understanding ethical conduct is thus a relationship between unequals who are vested in each other's well-being rather than that of two autonomous self-interested males. Maternal ethics advocate replacing the economic man of rational choice theory with a mothering person. The mothering person may be either a man or a woman, the term being ostensibly as gender neutral as economic man.

Feminist philosopher Virginia Held acknowledges without apology that her development of maternal ethics relies on an idealized view of mothering, explaining its use as parallel to the practice of relying on an idealized view of rational contractors. The concept of rational contractors was in itself a ...

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