Neither generalism nor particularism: Ethical correctness is located in general ethical theories

Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (2):155-175 (2004)
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Abstract

In this article I shall be supporting two main claims. The first is that the essence of the difference between particularism and generalism lies in where they locate ethical correctness. The second is that generalism, although to be preferred to particularism, is not the final resting place for ethical correctness. Ultimately, ethical correctness resides in ethical theories that provide the rationale for generalism. Particularism is presented as a theory that allows attention to be paid to specific cases and shows a sensitivity to the particular case. Generalism, with its appeal to moral principles, is supposed to lack this sensitivity to specific cases. I argue that although this might be true of subsumptive generalism, it is not true of what I call judgmental generalism. This latter type of generalism retains an appeal to moral principles while requiring sensitivity to the particular case. I consider Kantian ethics as an example of this sort of generalism. Furthermore, I support the claim that this judgmental generalism is to be preferred to particularism. I argue against a prominent form of particularism, put forward by Jonathan Dancy, based on an appeal to the holism of reasons. This doctrine involves the claim that the value of a complex whole is not necessarily identical with the value of its parts. I show that Dancy’s discussion of this involves inconsistencies and also appears to incorporate subsumptive generalism. This statement of particularism is ultimately incoherent.

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Citations of this work

Moral particularism and scientific practice.Brendan Larvor - 2008 - Metaphilosophy 39 (4-5):492-507.
A particularistic moral mind.Pierpaolo Marrone - 2021 - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 12 (2):110-124.

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References found in this work

The metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mary J. Gregor.
Virtue and Reason.John Mcdowell - 1979 - The Monist 62 (3):331-350.
Virtue and Reason.John McDowell - 1997 - In Roger Crisp & Michael Slote (eds.), Virtue Ethics. Oxford University Press.
Particularizing particularism.Roger Crisp - 2000 - In Brad Hooker & Margaret Olivia Little (eds.), Moral particularism. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 23--47.
The truth in particularism.Joseph Raz - 2000 - In Brad Hooker & Margaret Olivia Little (eds.), Moral particularism. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 48--78.

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