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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Particularism and holism: Not a necessary marriage
by Cordero, Richard, Ph.D., The Florida State University, 2015, 126; 3705795
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I examine the prospects for moral particularism. Moral particularism, which, like most views, comes in a variety of flavors, is essentially the view that the role general principles have traditionally played in moral theorizing is overstated. In Chapter One, I lay out the groundwork for the theories which I will discuss in Chapters Two through Four – a framework which I will ultimately reject. The most prominent variety of particularism in the literature, and the subject of Chapter Two, is the one offered by Jonathan Dancy in his Ethics Without Principles. (Dancy 2004) Dancy argues for a holistic conception of practical reasons -- reasons that sometimes count in favor of Φing can, in other situations, count against Φing. He claims that the truth of holism leads rather immediately (though not directly) to moral particularism. The literature on particularism is flooded with arguments against Dancy. In Chapter Two, I discuss Dancy's particularism and rehearse what I take to be the strongest objections against his view. I take some of those arguments to be rather decisive. And so I suggest that for particularism to survive, we must move beyond Dancy's view.

In Chapter Three I examine another variety of moral particularism - that offered by David McNaughton and Piers Rawling. Given the objections leveled against Dancy, one maneuver for preserving particularism would be to have a variety that is less objectionable by being more like traditional generalist theories. McNaughton and Rawling's particularism is just such a view. However, for various reasons which I discuss in that chapter, I find McNaughton and Rawling's view also to be unsatisfactory.

Given that I take these two, the most prominent, strains of particularism to be the best developed, and given their problems, I suggest in Chapter Four that perhaps if particularism is untenable, particularists might best serve their aims by adopting quasi-generalist views. Essentially what particularists seem to be looking for is a view that privileges moral contexts over moral rules. The rules cannot adequately guide us, not exceptionlessly, at least, given the variety of moral situations in which we find ourselves. So, in this chapter I examine the moral contextualism offered by Margaret Olivia Little and Mark Norris Lance, as well as Pekka V\"{a}rynen's theory of hedged moral principles. If extant varieties of particularism face insurmountable problems, then perhaps there are varieties of generalism which privilege moral contexts enough to satisfy particularist intuitions. Ultimately, I find these views also to be inadequate.

The overarching theme of this work is that extant particularist views are inadequate in various ways all relating to their conception of a practical reason. And so, with that in mind, in Chapter Five, I argue that for particularists to maintain a foothold in the debate, they must rethink the conception of a practical reason they employ in their views. I suggest that there is room for a variety of particularism that rejects the traditional conception of practical reasons as holistic contributory considerations that we weigh together and against each other to determine what we ought to do. I call the view I am offering `Eliminativism', as it is an attempted elimination of contributory-reasons-talk from the discourse. I reject the contributory conception of reasons and offer a more coarse-grained conception of reasons for action that privileges context above all else, thereby giving particularism a coherent conception of reasons for action that enables them to eschew general principles.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McNaughton, David A.
Commitee: Bishop, Michael A., Kalbian, Aline H., Rawling, John P.
School: The Florida State University
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ethics, Philosophy
Keywords: Dancy, Jonathan, Moral generalism, Moral particularism, Reasons holism
Publication Number: 3705795
ISBN: 978-1-321-79154-9
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