Moral Generalism or Particularism?

Philosophy Study 1 (4) (2011)
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Moral generalism and particularism are two positions in meta-ethics which have different views regarding the relation between moral thought and principles. By accepting this relationship, generalists emphasize the necessity of principles in decision making process, and claim that the rationality of moral thought depends on the provision of a suitable supply of moral principles. In contrast, particularists have rejected, or at least doubted, the existence of moral principles, and believe that the rationality of moral thought depends on recognizing special features of a case and relevant conditions. This is why, unlike generalists, they use case study method rather than syllogism in decision making process and moral judgment. Consequently, to support their view, particularists commonly resort to holism in the theory of reasons, while atomism is in support of generalism. To evaluate these two attitudes, this study surveys some arguments that particularists and generalists proposed to justify their view and criticize the rival’s one, and also explains their positions concerning the epistemological and metaphysical role of moral principles and reasons. Finally, after evaluating their claims, the importance of both approaches in meta-ethics is stressed.
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