Moral philosophy has long been dominated by the aim of understanding morality and the virtues in terms of principles. However, the underlying assumption that this is the best approach has received almost no defence, and has been attacked by particularists, who argue that the traditional link between morality and principles is little more than an unwarranted prejudice. In Principled Ethics, Michael Ridge and Sean McKeever meet the particularist challenge head-on, and defend a distinctive view they call "generalism as a regulative (...) ideal.". (shrink)
Moral particularists are united in their opposition to the codification of morality, and their work poses an important challenge to traditional ways of thinking about moral philosophy. Defenders of moral particularism have, with near unanimity, sought support from a doctrine they call “holism in the theory of reasons.” We argue that this is all a mistake. There are two ways in which holism in the theory of reasons can be understood, but neither provides any support for moral particularism. Moral particularists (...) are united in their opposition to the codification of morality in purely descriptive terms, but their opposition takes different forms. Sometimes particularists maintain that codifying the moral landscape is impossible. In other contexts particularists argue that moral principles are in any event unnecessary. In yet other contexts particularists contend that the codification of morality is undesirable, perhaps because it would encourage people to look less carefully at the case at hand.1 These are distinct theses, although particularists often endorse all three. As Jonathan Dancy, citing John McDowell puts it, “Particularism is at its crudest the claim that we neither need nor can see the search for an ‘evaluative outlook which one can endorse as rational as the search for a set of principles.’”2 On any interpretation, particularism poses an important challenge for traditional conceptions of moral philosophy.. (shrink)
The present chapter attempts to resolve a puzzle about normative testimony. On the one hand, agents act on the advice of others, advice which purports to tell them what they have reason to do. When they do so, they can act for good reason. This thought, though, sits uneasily with another: that the mere fact that someone has advised a course of action is not itself a reason. An interesting view of reasons recently defended by Stephen Kearns and Daniel Star (...) offers a resolution to the puzzle. On this view, reasons are evidence, specifically evidence concerning what one ought to do. If they are correct, then sufficiently good advice is, it turns out, itself a reason, and it is then no puzzle that an agent who acts on such advice is acting for a good reason. The chapter argues that this account of reasons is subject to counterexamples. There are reasons which are not evidence and evidence which is not a reason. This view of reasons cannot therefore hold the key to solving the puzzle of normative testimony. The solution to the puzzle of normative testimony lies instead in a more careful account of what it is to act for a reason. Such an account can preserve both the intuition that advice is not an independent reason and the thought that agents who act on sound advice act for good reason. The account also explains how agents can act for “elusive reasons.” These are facts which are reasons but which would not be if the agent became sufficiently aware of them. (shrink)
What place, if any, moral principles should or do have in moral life has been a longstanding question f or moral philosophy. For some, the proposition that moral philosophy should strive to articulate moral principles has been an article of faith. At least since Aristotle, however, there has been a rieh counter-tradition that questions the possibility or value of trying to capture morality in principled terms. In recent years, philosophers who question principled approaches to morality have argued under the banner (...) of moral particularism. Particularists can be found in diverse areas of philosophical inquiry, and their positions and arguments are of broad interest. Despite its importance, a proper evaluation of particularism has been hindered both by the diversity of arguments employed to defend it, and, perhaps more significantly, by the diversity of positions that can fairly claim to be particularist. (shrink)
Particularism takes an extremely ecumenical view of what considerations might count as reasons and thereby threatens to ‘flatten the moral landscape’ by making it seem that there is no deep difference between, for example, pain, and shoelace color. After all, particularists have claimed, either could provide a reason provided a suitable moral context. To avoid this result, some particularists draw a distinction between default and non-default reasons. The present paper argues that all but the most deflationary ways of drawing this (...) distinction are either implausible or else insufficient to help the particularist avoid flattening the moral landscape. The difficulty can be avoided, however, if we reject particularism's extremely ecumenical view of reasons. (shrink)
A strong moral reason for prohibiting doping in sport is to be found in the bad choices that would be faced by clean athletes in a sporting world that tolerated doping. The case against doping is not, however, to be grounded in the concept of coercion. Instead, it is grounded in a general duty of sport to afford fair opportunity to the goods that are distinctively within sport's sphere of control. The moral reason to prohibit doping need not be balanced (...) against any autonomy claim of athletes who would prefer to dope because, upon closer examination, such claims have no force. The moral reason to prohibit doping does, however, need to be balanced against the enforcement costs imposed on all athletes by effective prohibition. (shrink)
Moral particularism, as recently defended, charges that traditional moral theorizing unduly privileges moral principles. Moral generalism defends a prominent place for moral principles. Because moral principles are often asked to play multiple roles, moral particularism aims at multiple targets. We distinguish two leading roles for moral principles, the role of standard and the role of guide. We critically survey some of the leading arguments both for and against principles so conceived.
Particularism renders the options for a sound moral epistemology few and the prospects dim. One leading approach treats basic knowledge of particular cases as derivable from an a priori moral principle and a posteriori knowledge of the contingent non-moral facts to which the principle applies. Particularists must forgo this approach because it requires principles. Yet a purely a posteriori moral epistemology is also implausible, especially when combined with particularism. Particularists such as Jonathan Dancy are thus led to the view that (...) our basic moral knowledge is a priori knowledge of contingent moral facts. We argue that this epistemology is unsound. While some cases of a priori knowledge of (even deeply) contingent facts may be defensible, they are not sufficient for particularist purposes. Moreover, neither Dancy’s appeal to the distinction between positive and negative dependence nor his discussion of intuitive examples provides sufficient support for this epistemology. (shrink)