Normative Particularism Applied to First-Order Theories


Moral particularism has been criticized on the grounds that it may be, or is, impossible for the particularist to give a satisfying account of moral education, moral competence, or moral justification, and my project will provide a positive response: that particularists very much can do so. However, these are questions that can only be meaningfully asked of first-order theories, whereas particularism is predicated on a single second-order ­claim. To address these points, I must first ask whether particularist accounts can be given of the three main strands in first-order theorising: virtue ethics, consequentialism, or deontology. My hypothesis is that particularism cannot be reconciled with virtue ethics, and that the choice is instead between consequentialism and deontology.  

For particularism (which is also predicated on a rational view of morality) to be amenable to deontology, there must be the possibility of identifiably normative reasons that point towards some obligatory moral action, that have nothing to do with anything of value. If this is not the case, and all moral reasons have something to do with some evaluation, and therefore, some value, only consequentialism will survive. Therefore, to be able to address the criticisms that inspire this project, I must first consider whether any such reasons exist.