The Religion & Culture Web Forum
Agape, Special Relations, and the Global Care Crisis: Challenging a “Two-Track” Understanding of the Obligations of Christian Love
University of Chicago
The Web Forum begins 2008 with a consideration by Sandra Sullivan Dunbar of how the recent ethical debate between agape and special relations might appear when viewed through the lens of dependent care. In her essay, Sullivan Dunbar argues that the definition of agape as “equal regard” (following Gene Outka) or universal respect for persons does not fully take into account the necessity of meeting fundamental human needs for food, clothing, shelter, and nurture. She also re-examines the parable of the Good Samaritan, often used as a model foragape:
Such care, calling forth gifts of time, energy, and resources in attending to the very particular needs of the individual recipient, is most often exemplified in the arena dubbed “special relations” by contemporary moral theory, because these relations often demand such intensive care. That is, we generally bestow this kind of Good Samaritan care on our children, parents, and friends…. The problem is that a definition of agape that focuses on the individual agent cannot simultaneously achieve a universal scope. The tension here is sharpened when we recognize that agape involves attention to material need, since such attention can be all-consuming. Thus in our concrete moral decisions about how to allocate our time, energy, and material resources for caring, we still do experience a substantive conflict between agape so understood and “special relations.”
But the primary deficiency of libertarian freedom is that it disconnects freedom from the dynamics of desire.
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