Principle-Based Moral Judgement

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (2):339-354 (2013)
It is widely acknowledged that moral principles are not sufficient to guide moral thought and action: they need to be supplemented by a capacity for judgement. However, why can we not rely on this capacity for moral judgement alone? Why do moral principles need to be supplemented, but are not supplanted, by judgement? So-called moral particularists argue that we can, and should, make moral decisions on a case-by-case basis without any principles. According to particularists, the person of moral judgement is a person of empathy, sensibility and virtue, rather than a person of principle. In this paper I argue that this is a false dichotomy. The person of good moral judgement is a person of principle. I propose that we think of moral principles as internalised long-term commitments that form our moral character and sensitivity, and, as such, are constitutive of moral judgement
Keywords Moral judgement  Moral principles  Moral particularism  Moral generalism
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-012-9343-x
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Michael Bratman (1987/1999). Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason. Center for the Study of Language and Information.

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