Daniel Nica
University of Bucharest
This paper is a critical investigation about the historical origins of two contemporary approaches in ethics: moral particularism and moral generalism. Moral particularism states that there are no defensible moral principles and that moral thought doesn’t consist in the application of moral principles to cases, but in understanding the morally relevant features of an action, which vary from case to case. In opposition, moral generalism is the traditional claim that moral decisions are made by applying general rules to particular actions. Plato is often seen as a moral generalist for his appeal to Forms which are universal standards, while Aristotle is regarded as a precursor of moral particularism for stressing the importance of the “the prudence”, which is the intellectual capacity to perceive the irreducible specificity of a context, and the importance of “the means” which differs from person to person. First I will take Plato into discussion, and I will briefly reconstruct his theoretical account on Justice and virtue in order to establish his “generalist” orientation. Then I will analyze Aristotle’s alleged particularism by appealing to his texts and assessing some considerations of a few contemporary authors. At the end of the paper, I will question both particularism and generalism for the appropriation of the two ancient philosophers, on the ground that modern moral philosophy which is an action centered ethics is hard to reconcile with ancient moral thought which was an agent centered one.
Keywords moral particularism  moral generalism  Plato  Aristotle  virtue ethics  contextualism
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