Elisabeth Conradi’s access to conduct research in the field of Ethics addresses the move from practice to theory. Practice is thereby relevant in two ways that contribute to developing ethics: Firstly to reflecting about how a good practice can be performed during the process of practicing. Secondly to reflect about a doubtful practice after performing it.
Comparable moves from Reflecting a Practice to create a judgment are known from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment. This approach to ethics crosses the nowadays common distinction between normative and applied ethics. For her, the relation between practice and ethics can not adequately be described as an implementation of pre-established rules. Rather the practice itself includes normative relevant aspects that lead to a variety of answers to a dilemma.
Hence in her book „Take Care. Grundlagen einer Ethik der Achtsamkeit“ (Cover (pdf) >> | Contens (pdf) >> | Proof >>) Conradi explores ethics as a normative approach inspired by both, philosophical thought and by practical reasoning. Beyond that she is secondly concerned with analyzing concepts like autonomy and reciprocity. Thirdly she approaches ethics as a critical theory that helps to understand societal and political conditions of practical reasoning.
The Ethics of Care
In her book Conradi also explores her interest to develop an Ethics of Care and interprets attentiveness as a core concept of ethics. The ethics of care has provides insights on issues such as the relevance of relatedness for getting into conflicts and for solving them; the importance of experience as a source of reflecting on and coping with issues; the value of repairing and renewing social relations; the importance of attentiveness and concern as well as the impact of responsibility within interpersonal relationships, in organisational settings and in political decision making processes. It examines whether or not listening, support, assistance or help are provided and how these activities are performed. In this way, the Ethics of Care is a critical approach. It expresses the importance of placing care at the centre rather than the periphery in order to challenge power and privilege, and identifies the transformation of structures and institutions necessary to achieve this.
Elisabeth Conradi is member of the European Ethics of Care Network. The network provides a forum for researchers coming from disciplines like Philosophy and Social Sciences, as well as Theology, Medicine and Nursing Science. Their common point of departure is the ethics of care articulated in the study “In a Different Voice” by the American psychologist Carol Gilligan, and in a political development of this in the book “Moral Boundaries” by the American political scientist Joan Tronto.
In 2013 Elisabeth Conradi organised the Conference “Deliberation and Transformation: Challenges through the Ethics of Care“ together with Marian Barnes and Frans Vosman The Conference aimed to explore whether the Ethics of Care can inspire and further develop concepts of deliberation that allow for bringing in diverse experiences from daily life and struggle supported by practices of listening and translating. The conference sought to look into organisational preconditions under which a culture of listening and concern might flourish. Furthermore it analysed how organisational conditions can be transformed to broaden the participatory sphere. Inspired by this conference Marian Barnes, Elisabeth Conradi and Frans Vosman published a special issue on “Deliberation and Transformation: Challenges through the Ethics of Care“ of the journal Ethics & Social Welfare (Barnes/Conradi/Vosman 2015).
Recently (2016) Conradi edited together with Frans Vosman the first introductory volume on the ethics of care in German language. The book “Praxis der Achtsamkeit. Schlüsselbegriffe der Care-Ethik” (Cover (pdf) >> | Contents (pdf) >> | Proof >>) opens up new perspectives by presenting the transnational and transdisciplinary development of care-ethical core concepts and by reflecting on their relation to (other) philosophical traditions. Ensuing from the practice of care and attentiveness it considers ways and means of societal transformation and types of responsibility.
Ethics & Politics, Empirical research, Gender, and Professional ethics
Elisabeth Conradi’s research in the field of Ethics covers a wide-ranging field. The study of the relationship between ethics and politics is one of her main interests. In her article Ethik und Politik. Wie eine Ethik der Achtsamkeit mit politischer Verantwortung verbunden werden kann she reflects on theorists who oppose ethics and politics, like Max Weber did, and on theorists who intensely connected one with the other, as for example Immanuel Kant, John Rawls, and Jürgen Habermas.
Conradi conducted empirical research questioning the shift in the ethical reasoning of medical students comparing the beginning and the end in the course of their studies (see Conradi, Wiesemann 2003). In this research the gender question was taken up to not overlook the social, political, and cultural context of ethical reasoning. Conradi also reflected on gender and ethics via explanatory and interpretative theory-building (see Conradi 2001).
Furthermore, Conradi published in the field of professional ethics for social work, nursing, medicine as well as in view of disability studies and paedagogy. In her article Ethik im Kontext sozialer Arbeit she reflects on ethical challenges set up by professional experiences in the context of social work. Conradi defines the task of ethics and refers amongst others to organisational questions and welfare-mix settings. In the article Vom Besonderen zum Allgemeinen. Zuwendung in der Pflege als Ausgangspunkt einer Ethik (2003) Conradi raises the question of violence in nursing. In her article Selbstbestimmung durch Achtsamkeit she reflects on ethics in the context of disability and the independence movement.