Moral particularism

Moral particularism is the view that there are no moral principles and that moral judgement can be found only as one decides particular cases, either real or imagined. This stands in stark contrast to other prominent moral theories, such as deontology or utilitarianism. In the former, it is asserted that people have a set of duties (that are to be considered or respected); in the latter, people are to respect the happiness or the preferences of others in their actions. Particularism, to the contrary, asserts that there are no overriding principles that are applicable in every case, or that can be abstracted to apply to every case.

According to particularism, most notably defended by Jonathan Dancy, moral knowledge should be understood as knowledge of moral rules of thumb, which are not principles, and of particular solutions, which can be used by analogy in new cases. It ultimately requires that one will be in good faith upon each particular circumstance as opposed to falling under the influence of narcissism.

The term "particularism" was coined to designate this position by R. M. Hare, in 1963 (Freedom and Reason, Oxford: Clarendon, p. 18).

A largely coincident view about law was defended by Castanheira Neves in his 1967 major work, Questão-de-facto — questão-de-direito ou o problema metodológico da juridicidade, or in English, Matter of fact / matter of law, or the methodological problem of legality.

To summarize that view, as Justice Stephen Breyer, of the United States Supreme Court, said in reference to bright-line rules, "no single set of legal rules can capture the ever changing complexity of human life."

Further reading

External links


Analogy (from Greek ἀναλογία, analogia, "proportion", from ana- "upon, according to" [also "against", "anew"] + logos "ratio" [also "word, speech, reckoning"]) is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject (the analog, or source) to another (the target), or a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process. In a narrower sense, analogy is an inference or an argument from one particular to another particular, as opposed to deduction, induction, and abduction, in which at least one of the premises, or the conclusion, is general rather than particular in nature. The term analogy can also refer to the relation between the source and the target themselves, which is often (though not always) a similarity, as in the biological notion of analogy.

Analogy plays a significant role in problem solving, as well as decision making, argumentation, perception, generalization, memory, creativity, invention, prediction, emotion, explanation, conceptualization and communication. It lies behind basic tasks such as the identification of places, objects and people, for example, in face perception and facial recognition systems. It has been argued that analogy is "the core of cognition". Specific analogical language comprises exemplification, comparisons, metaphors, similes, allegories, and parables, but not metonymy. Phrases like and so on, and the like, as if, and the very word like also rely on an analogical understanding by the receiver of a message including them. Analogy is important not only in ordinary language and common sense (where proverbs and idioms give many examples of its application) but also in science, philosophy, law and the humanities. The concepts of association, comparison, correspondence, mathematical and morphological homology, homomorphism, iconicity, isomorphism, metaphor, resemblance, and similarity are closely related to analogy. In cognitive linguistics, the notion of conceptual metaphor may be equivalent to that of analogy. Analogy is also a basis for any comparative arguments as well as experiments whose results are transmitted to objects that have been not under examination (e.g., experiments on rats when results are applied to humans).

Analogy has been studied and discussed since classical antiquity by philosophers, scientists, theologists and lawyers. The last few decades have shown a renewed interest in analogy, most notably in cognitive science.


Antinatalism, or anti-natalism, is a philosophical position that assigns a negative value to birth. Antinatalists argue that people should abstain from procreation because it is morally bad (some also recognize the procreation of other sentient beings as morally bad). In scholarly and in literary writings, various ethical foundations have been adduced for antinatalism. Some of the earliest surviving formulations of the idea that it would be better not to have been born come from ancient Greece. The term antinatalism is in opposition to the term natalism or pro-natalism, and was used probably for the first time as the name of the position by Théophile de Giraud (born 1968) in his book L'art de guillotiner les procréateurs: Manifeste anti-nataliste.

António Castanheira Neves

António Castanheira Neves (born 8 November 1929 in Tábua) is a Portuguese legal philosopher and a professor emeritus at the law faculty of the University of Coimbra.

According to Castanheira Neves, law can only be understood through legal problems (roughly, legal cases), which have to be solved within the legal system (including a necessary connection to morality). Law, he claims, is not something given or previous, but the solution to legal problems. Legal problems are the decisive starting point. His opposition to positivism, to natural law and to the several theories of legal syllogism would make him one of the first and most accomplished advocates of interpretivism.

Castanheira Neves, however, has always claimed that law — the task of lawyers — is not essentially interpretive or hermeneutical, but practical, i.e., action guiding. He maintains that legal interpretation is not a necessary feature of legal reasoning. On the contrary, law always arises from legal problems, which are concrete, historically situated, normative, and practical. Every legal decision aims to settle what someone (legally) ought to do in a particular case in a particular historical (and social) situation, and that is its defining feature. A legal decision is also itself an action. Interpretation is not always needed and, when it is, it is auxiliary.

The central tenets of Castanheira Neves' philosophy of law were made clear in his 1967 massive book on the philosophical and methodological distinction between matter of fact and matter of law. Castanheira Neves addresses the similarities and significant differences between his and Dworkin's theses in the last part of his 2003 book.

Castanheira Neves also claims that there is no law in general norms (rules, principles, etc.) as laid down by legislators, but only in solving particular cases. To this thesis, he calls "jurisprudentialism".

Law is not an element, but a synthesis, not a premise for validity, but fulfilled validity, not a prius, but a posterius, not a given, but a solution, it is not in the beginning, but in the end. (Castanheira Neves, 1967, p. 586)In this, he was preceded by authors like Viehweg and schools of thought like critical legal studies, but he differed from these authors as he claimed it to be essential to law as a normative matter, and not only descriptively. His position is therefore equivalent, in this subject, to J. Dancy's later moral particularism. Castanheira Neves would come to agree with Gadamer's dictum that all interpretation is application (as Dworkin did).

Brad Hooker

Brad Hooker (born 13 September 1957) is a British-American philosopher who specialises in moral philosophy. He is a Professor at the University of Reading and is best known for his work defending rule-consequentialism (often treated as being synonymous with rule utilitarianism).

His book Ideal Code, Real World received a number of favourable reviews from high-profile philosophers. Derek Parfit, for example, wrote: "This book seems to me the best statement and defence, so far, of one of the most important moral theories."

Felix Adler (professor)

Felix Adler (August 13, 1851 – April 24, 1933) was a German American professor of political and social ethics, rationalist, influential lecturer on euthanasia, religious leader and social reformer who founded the Ethical Culture movement.

Index of ethics articles

This Index of ethics articles puts articles relevant to well-known ethical (right and wrong, good and bad) debates and decisions in one place - including practical problems long known in philosophy, and the more abstract subjects in law, politics, and some professions and sciences. It lists also those core concepts essential to understanding ethics as applied in various religions, some movements derived from religions, and religions discussed as if they were a theory of ethics making no special claim to divine status.

Jay L. Garfield

Jay Lazar Garfield (born 13 November 1955) is a professor and researcher that specializes on Tibetan Buddhism. He also specializes on the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, ethics, and hermeneutics. He is currently Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities at Smith College, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Visiting Professor of Philosophy and Buddhist Studies at Harvard Divinity School, and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the Central University of Tibetan Studies.

Jonathan Dancy

Jonathan Peter Dancy, FBA (born 8 May 1946) is a British philosopher, who has written on ethics and epistemology. He is currently Professor of Philosophy at University of Texas at Austin and Research Professor at the University of Reading. He taught previously for many years at the University of Keele.

Manuel (Fawlty Towers)

Manuel is a fictional character from the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers, played by Andrew Sachs. He reappeared for a small sketch with John Cleese in We Are Most Amused in November 2008.

Manuel himself appeared on the audio adaptations of Fawlty Towers as a linking narrator, explaining things from his point of view, when the series was released in audio format. The first two episodes released did not feature him at all, as the dialogue was edited and a short burst of piano music would indicate a change of scene. However, when the whole series was re-released, they were re-edited with Manuel's linking commentary.

Mark Lance

Mark Norris Lance (born 1959) is a professor in the Philosophy Department and Justice and Peace Studies Program at Georgetown University.

Moral supervenience

The principle of moral supervenience states that moral predicates (e.g., permissible, obligatory, forbidden, etc.), and hence moral facts attributing these predicates to various particular actions or action-types, supervene, or are defined by and depend, upon non-moral facts. The moral facts are hence said to be supervenient facts, and the non-moral facts the supervenience base of the former. The principle is sometimes qualified to say that moral facts supervene upon natural facts, i.e., observable, empirical facts within space-time, but a broader conception could allow the supervenience base to include any non-moral facts, including (if there are any) non-natural facts (e.g., divine commands, Platonic truths).


In metaphysics, particulars are defined as concrete, spatiotemporal entities as opposed to abstract entities, such as properties or numbers. There are, however, theories of abstract particulars or tropes. For example, Socrates is a particular (there's only one Socrates-the-teacher-of-Plato and one cannot make copies of him, e.g., by cloning him, without introducing new, distinct particulars). Redness, by contrast, is not a particular, because it is abstract and multiply instantiated (for example a bicycle, an apple, and a given woman's hair can all be red).


Particularism may refer to:

Epistemological particularism, one of the answers to the problem of the criterion in epistemology

Historical particularism, an approach in anthropology

Moral particularism, the view that there are no universal moral principles

Multicultural particularism, the belief that a common culture for all people is either undesirable or impossible

Political particularism, the politics of group identity that trumps universal rights

Religious particularism, name given to the phenomenon of Americanism in the apostolic letter Testem benevolentiae nostrae

The Good Place (season 2)

The second season of the fantasy comedy television series The Good Place, created by Michael Schur, began airing September 20, 2017, on NBC in the United States. The season is produced by Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Universal Television. The season concluded on February 1, 2018 and contained 13 episodes.

The series focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), a deceased young woman who wakes up in the afterlife and is sent by Michael (Ted Danson) to "The Good Place", a heaven-like utopia he designed, in reward for her righteous life. However, she quickly realizes that she was sent there by mistake, and must hide her morally imperfect behavior (past and present). William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto co-star as other residents of the Good Place, together with D'Arcy Carden as an artificial being helping the inhabitants. Each of the episodes are listed as "Chapter (xx)" following the opening title card.

Thick concept

In philosophy, a thick concept (sometimes: thick normative concept, or thick evaluative concept) is a kind of concept that both has a significant degree of descriptive content and is evaluatively loaded. Paradigmatic examples are various virtues and vices such as courage, cruelty, truthfulness and kindness. Courage for example, may be given a rough characterization in descriptive terms as '…opposing danger to promote a valued end'. At the same time, characterizing someone as courageous typically involves expressing a pro-attitude, or a (prima facie) good-making quality – i.e. an evaluative statement.

Applied ethics
Related articles

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.