Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 151–167

Another Particularism: Reasons, Status and Defaults

Article

Abstract

This paper makes the non-monotonicity of a wide range of moral reasoning the basis of a case for particularism. Non-monotonicity threatens practical decision with an overwhelming informational complexity to which a form of ethical generalism seems the best response. It is argued that this impression is wholly misleading: the fact of non-monotonicity is best accommodated by the defence of four related theses in any theory of justification. First, the explanation of and defence of a default/challenge model of justification. Secondly, the development of a theory of epistemic status and an explanation of those unearned entitlements that accrue to such status. Thirdly, an explanation of the basis of epistemic virtues. Finally, an account must be given of the executive capacity of rational decision itself as a ‘contentless ability’. This overall set of views can accommodate a limited role for generalizations about categories of evidence, but not such as to rescue a principled generalism. In particular, the version of particularism defended here explains why one ought not to accept the principled “holism” that has proved to be a problem for Dancy’s form of particularism. Ethics certainly involves hedged principles. However, principles cannot be self-hedging: there cannot be a “that’s it” operator in a principle as Richard Holton has claimed that there can be. Practical reasoning is concluded by the categorical detachment of the action-as-conclusion itself.

Keywords

Moral particularism Moral reasons Non-monotonic reasoning 

References

  1. Baker G, Hacker P (1984) Language, sense and nonsense. Blackwells, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Brand-Ballard J (2007) Why one basic principle? Utilitas 19(2):220–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brandom R (1998) Action, norms, and practical reasoning. Noûs, 32 supplement: philosophical perspectives, 12, Language Mind and Ontology, pp 127–139Google Scholar
  4. Brooks RA (1991) Intelligence without representation. Artificial Intelligence 47:139–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carroll L (Dodgson, C. L.) (1895) What the tortoise said to achilles. Mind, n.s., 4, pp 278–80Google Scholar
  6. Clark P (1997) Practical steps and reasons for action. Can J Philos 27(1):17–45Google Scholar
  7. Clark P (2001) The action as conclusion. Can J Philos 3(4):481–506Google Scholar
  8. Dancy J (1993) Moral reasons. Blackwells, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Dancy J (2004) Ethics without principles. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Foot P (1978) Are moral considerations overriding?’ In Virtues and Vices. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Garfield J (2000) Particularity and principle: the structure of moral knowledge. In: Hooker and Little (eds.) Moral particularism, pp 178–204Google Scholar
  12. Harman G (1986) Change in view, M. I. T. PressGoogle Scholar
  13. Holton R (2002) Principles and particularisms. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, vol. 76, no. 1, pp 191–209(19)Google Scholar
  14. Horty JF (2001) Nonmonotonic logic. In Goble (2001) pp 336–361Google Scholar
  15. Horty JF (2007) Reasons as defaults. Philosophers’ Imprint 7(3), 28 pp 1–28Google Scholar
  16. Lance M, Little M (2004) Defeasibility and the normative grasp of context. Erkenntnis 61:435–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lance M, Little M (2006a) Particularism and anti-theory. In Copp D (ed) (2006), pp 567–593Google Scholar
  18. Lance M, Little M (2006b) Defending moral particularism. In Dreier J (ed) (2006) pp 304–321Google Scholar
  19. Lance M, Little M (2007) Where the laws are. In Shafer-Landau R (ed) (2007), chapter sevenGoogle Scholar
  20. Lance M, Little M (2008) From Particularism to defeasibility in ethics. In: Lance M, Potrcz M, Strahovnik V (eds) (2008) pp 53–74Google Scholar
  21. Morton A (2004) Epistemic virtues, metavirtues, and computational complexity. Nous 38(4): 481–502(22)Google Scholar
  22. Ridge M, McKeever S (2006) Principled ethics: generalism as a regulative ideal. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  23. Robinson L (2006) Moral holism, moral generalism, and moral dispositionalism. Mind 115(458):331–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Robinson L (2008) Moral principles are not moral laws. Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy (2):1–22Google Scholar
  25. Tenenbaum S (2007a) Moral psychology. Rodopi, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  26. Tenenbaum S (2007b) The conclusion of practical reasoning. In Tenenbaum (2007b), pp 323–343Google Scholar
  27. Thomas A (2005) Reasonable partiality and the agent’s personal point of view. Ethical Theory Moral Pract 8(1–2):24–43Google Scholar
  28. Thomas A (2006) Value and context: the nature of moral and political knowledge. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  29. Thomas A (2007) Practical reasoning and normative relevance. Journal of Moral Philosophy 4(1):77–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Thomas A (2010a) Moral particularism. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, Reed-ElsevierGoogle Scholar
  31. Thomas A (2010b) Should generalism be our regulative ideal?’ paper presented to the conference ‘Intuition and Anti-Theory in Ethics’, University of EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  32. Thomas A (2010c) Is practical reasoning essentially first personal? In Feltham B, Cottingham J, Stratton-Lake P (eds) Partiality and impartiality in ethics. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  33. Väyrnen P (2004) Particularism and default reasons. Ethical Theory Moral Pract (7), March, pp 53–79Google Scholar
  34. Väyrynen P (2009) A theory of hedged moral principles. In Shafer-Landau (ed) (2009) pp 91–132Google Scholar
  35. Williams B (1985) Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Fontana, LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations