Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and much of ancient thought do we come to see most clearly this abstraction.
In virtue ethics, we have what are referred to as the cardinal virtues. These are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. All other virtues are reducible to one of these cardinal virtues. For example, courage is reducible of fortitude, and magnanimity is reducible to justice. The point is that these virtues all exist outside of us. In Plato, there is literally this abstract object called justice. It is not physical but it exist somewhere out there in reality. Much like how a scientist studies a tree by examining it, so too in virtue ethics, men are to examine this thing called justice to come to knowledge of it. In this way, morality is objective. Morality is not a thing invented by man. If man did not exist, justice would still exist though there would be nothing participating in it.
This detachment of man from ethical objects if what feminist ethicists would consider a male or masculine approach to ethics. In turn feminist ethicists juxtapose this masculine form of detached ethics to a feminine ethics.
In doing so, they inaugurated a discussion of the different ontologies and epistemologies that underpin these types of ethics. In the main, they challenged the ontological presupposition that the more separate the self is from others, the more fully-developed that self is. They also questioned the presupposition that the more universal, abstract, impartial, and rational knowledge is, the more closely it mirrors reality.
In place of these presuppositions, they instead suggested the ontological assumption that the more connected the self is to others, the better the self is. They also offered the epistemological presupposition that the more particular, concrete, partial, and emotional knowledge is, the more likely it represents the way in which people actually experience the world.
Once again, this harkens backs to my video Feminism Part 1: Women's Way of Knowing. This division between masculine and feminine standards for ethics play well with the divisions made in vertical vs lateral ways of thinking. Vertical thinking being the male form and lateral being the female form.
The concept of “communal woman” gradually began to replace the concept “autonomous man” in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century feminist approaches to ethics.
Building on the legacy of many of the thinkers who preceded current feminist ethicists, a prominent group of twentieth-century feminist ethicists have continued to use “communal woman” to develop a variety of care-focused feminist approaches to ethics. Unlike non-feminist care-focused approaches to ethics, feminist ones are highly attune to gender issues. Feminist care-focused ethicists are quick to notice instances of female subordination and the tendencies of patriarchal societies not to properly esteem women's ways of thinking, writing, working, and loving.
Proponents of feminist care ethics stress that traditional moral theories, principles, practices, and policies are deficient to the degree they lack, ignore, trivialize, or demean values and virtues culturally associated with women. One feminist critique is of the Freudian notion that whereas men are morally well-developed, women are not. Freud attributed women's moral inferiority to girls' psychosexual development.
Whereas boys break their attachment to their mothers for fear of being castrated by their fathers if they fail to do so, girls remain tied to their mothers because the threat of castration has no power over them.