The Particularist Method of Ethical Reasoning
This essay concerns itself with the methodology of practical ethics. There is a variety of methods employed in ethics. Moral particularism challenges the widely held view that the application of principles is the best approach to practical ethics. Particularists deny an essential link between morality and principles and they hold that ethical decisions should be made case by case and not by applying principles. In this article, I show how ethical reasoning can avoid subsuming cases under principles. To accomplish this, I clarify (in Section 1) the basic features of particularism and outline how ethicists should approach ethical issues, on the particularists’ view. Section 2 explains the crucial notion of a practical reason by focussing on simple reasons for action, and I explain the epistemic problems that particularism faces. In the third section, I demonstrate then how we can construct complex reasons from simpler reasons in a logically correct way. This section shows that particularism can be reconstructed as a logically correct method of ethical reasoning. The result of this study is that despite its shortcomings, particularist reasoning is a useful and legitimate method of practical ethics.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Georg Spielthenner, “The Particularist Method of Ethical Reasoning”, in "Etica & Politica / Ethics and Politics, (2017) XIX/2", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2017, pp. 489-506