A critical discussion of Jonathan Dancy's moral particularism


Authors
Philipp Schwind
University of Zürich
Abstract
'Moral Particularism' is a view that questions the role of principles in ethics. Jonathan Dancy, the most eminent particularist, argues that principles which claim that it is right or wrong to do a certain thing in all situations cannot adequately account for the role context plays in moral deliberation. The aim of this dissertation is to critically evaluate the theory of Moral Particularism. The first section discusses various positions opposed to particularism. It considers the emergence of particularism as a response to Hare's Theory of Universalizability and Ross's Theory of Prima Facie Duty. The dissertation then moves on to examine the view that context-sensitivity does not support particularism. The second part of this dissertation analyses Dancy's theory in closer detail. It begins with a clarification of Dancy's conception of principles and is followed by a consideration of the evolution of particularism over time. The plausibility of the various versions of this theory are then compared. The third part of the dissertation looks at criticism of particularism by others apart from Dancy. It argues that context-sensitivity can only ground particularism as an epistemic, and not as a metaphysical theory. Furthermore, it discusses whether thick ethical concepts can ground principles. The dissertation concludes by asserting that whilst the claims of particularism are true, they are no serious threat to traditional moral theories.
Keywords Moral Particularism  Ethics  Metaethics  Ethical Intuitionism
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