Tag Archives: Principlism

Principlist and Particularist Ethics: Strengths and Weaknesses

What kind of person do we aim to be? Persons of principle, who (aim to) uphold a set of standards, a ‘moral code’?  Perhaps we aim at being someone who is sensitive to situations, with no set rules, but determining right or wrong depending on each new situation they find themselves in? This will depend on whether you think rules or principles are essential, or whether the specific facts of an individual situation has greater import, when considering whether an action is moral.  This is the argument between moral principlists[1], and moral particularists.  After a brief introduction to the problem, two key principlist positions, Kantian deontology and Utilitarianism, will be explored along with particularism to find the strengths and weaknesses of these positions.  It will be shown that in spite of the strengths of principle-based theories, particularism still poses a significant challenge to them.

Principle based ethical systems claim that there are one or more true, general, and universal principles that are ontologically prior to action, and which serve as guides or directives on ethical behaviour.  Without principles, they suggest, there can be no morality, for there would be no standards by which they can be determined[2].  While they disagree on the content and structure of an ethical system, two of the most recognised principle based systems are Kantian Deontology and Utilitarianism.  Each of these ethical systems provide methods of judging actions based on their observance of a general principle.  They are the ‘moral reasons’ for acting in any particular case, which may be held to be a priori, known through reason alone, or known a posteriori, through experience of similar cases.  Regardless of any additional features, whenever a ‘moral reason’ appears, this will always have the same moral value, moral ‘polarity’[3].  That is, for a Kantian, false-promising will always be morally wrong; perhaps for a Utilitarian, buying expensive cars instead of donating to charity would be.  They share a demand for application of a principle[4] in each scenario one finds oneself in, though may disagree on specifics[5].

Particularists disagree with this principle approach.  Rather than a rule being ontologically prior, a moral particularist suggests that moral reasons are particular to their context, and are ontologically prior.  Rational moral judgement, under particularism, does not depend on a ‘suitable provision’ of principles[6]. the moral reasons for an action can also be affected in polarity by their relations and wider interconnections[7].  What might have been a ‘moral reason’ for acting in one case, may not have the same relevance, or support the same polarity in another case.  While a principle of ‘don’t cause pain’ might indeed suggest a good moral reason not to hit your mother with a bokken[8], in another case, causing pain in this manner might be morally neutral[9].  There are also cases whereby causing pain is the morally right action; when encountering a gunman threatening to kill a group of people, hitting the gunman’s[10] arm with a bokken will certainly cause pain, but in that situation, it would be morally required.  Perhaps an onlooker, seeing the event from a distance, may see you hit your mother with a bokken, and evaluate your action as immoral, without seeing the gun in her hand that threatened the others present; likewise, we may also retain some moral guilt for this act, despite the circumstances[11].  What is apparent though, to a particularist moral agent fully cognisant of the context, is that the same action ‘causing pain’ has switched polarity based on a holism of reasons; it must be evaluated based on the situation, not against a general rule.

Strengths and Weaknesses of these Views

Both principlism and particularism have several strengths and weaknesses.  A principle based ethical system is seen as having universals which are rationally calculable and objective.  To their credit, and to the extent they match our expectations, these strengths make principle based theories very attractive. However, principle based systems are also heavily criticised for failing to factor for complexity, being too rigid in their demands, and too impartial.  For its part, particularism is accused of not having the strengths of principles based morals.  It does not have the capacity for universals, cannot straightforwardly guide action, and is not objective, but subjective; the very antithesis of principles based theories.  However, these weaknesses can be forceful strengths: while not offering a universal, it highlights the natural complexity of human endeavour; while generally more difficult to apply, and more labour intensive, particularism can offer a more satisfying outcome through a comprehensive and sensitive consideration of the situation; and while less objective, particularism can factor for the inherent nature of human relationships.  To the extent that principle based theories do not match our moral expectations, particularist ethics can.  These are the key elements which will be unpacked here.


The moral directives of principlist theories submit that they are action-guiding for all moral agents, and all times, regardless of self- or other- interests.  These universals are grounded for Kant, in universal reason, and for Utilitarians, in a shared capacity for pleasure and pain.  This universalism offers a degree of certainty in moral judgment, and, since it is grounded on alleged shared capacities, it is universally applicable.  In this realm, however, there are some differences between the principlists.  For Deontological principlists, the situation, culture, and historical position one finds oneself in bears little to no influence on the morality of an action; theirs is a universal, duty- and intention- based doctrine.  It is for this reason that Kant outlines the Categorical Imperative’s (CI) edict against making false promises[12].  According to Kant, One cannot universalise a maxim that suggested false promises were morally permissible, because it is not rational, nor does it respect individual autonomy.  It would remove the very institution of promising.  For teleological principlists, as a consequentialist doctrine, the situation will affect the morality of an action; False promising, contra Kant, can be morally permissible if the expected positive outcome is sufficiently good, based on the Utility Principle.  However, the principle will still be universalisable to any and all others in a situation that is relevantly similar; similar situation will have a similar ‘right’ action.

To a particularist, as briefly outlined previously, this view is false.  Each situation is new; the features are never completely the same.  While they may be small or great, the ‘[d]ifference[s], idiomaticity, singularity, exceptionality’ are the hallmarks of real life situations[13].  The Universals, if they exist, attempt to pronounce a clear judgement, subsuming any and all particulars within a singular situation under an overarching universal principle.  However, this is rarely appropriate; in all but the most banal situations, principles cannot suffice alone, and it is in banal situations that we do not have need of the guidance from a principle[14].  Real situations don’t conform or reduce naturally to cases[15]; principles, even by their proponents, are modified and adjusted[16].  This leads to problems of application, discussed in the next section.

This also leads to the question of where the universals came from; under these principlist views, as mentioned, universals are known a priori through reason, or a posteriori through a shared experience of pleasure and pain.  However, particularists recognise that both of these universals assume a key point; rationality and shared features rely upon particulars.  Particular instantiations of rationality point to a universal shared feature, not the other way around: ‘[e]very concept originates through our equating what is unequal’[17].  Seeing one thing as equal to another, ‘[tying] down […] a single item [that] is carried over and used to refer univocally to other items which are not identical with the original one’[18] serves to emphasise certain aspects, whilst hiding others.  Principles force a narrow viewpoint, and miss the distinct features of particular situations, and can further exacerbate problems of power; framing issues in a specific way points to one principle, though looking at it through another lens can privilege another.  Subsuming the particular can have deleterious effects on morality.  At their best, principles can merely signpost possible moral reasons or relevance of situational features[19].

Application / Calculation of Morality

Principle based theories are often lauded for being easy to apply.  There is a clear system in place for judging right from wrong.  They provide of a degree of certainty about what is ‘right’ which impacts greatly on humanity; these principles are, broadly speaking, the basis of law and government, and follows the contours of a common approach to moral argument[20].  For a Kantian Deontologist, their moral reasoning process to enable good moral decision-making consists of measuring an action against the Categorical Imperative (CI); provides an effective and simple method for determining the moral worth of an action– simply measure an action against the principle, and obtain an answer.  If I want to know whether withholding information when trying to sell my car would be morally permissible, I merely need only to consider the first two formulations of the CI.  Perhaps considering the first formulation, ‘act only on the maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law’[21], perhaps you could rationalise that, at least in the realm of car sales, withholding information is already a universal law[22].  However, the second formulation of the CI will remove any doubt, and subjective bias; one could not be acting ‘as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only’[23] by the universalisation of this act, because it removes the autonomy and respect for persons which this formulation stands to guard.  I would be duty-bound to give a full and honest sales pitch.  Similarly, if perhaps I am a Utilitarian preparing a last Will and Testament, I may want to determine who to leave my riches to; perhaps I like the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, but I also think that UNICEF does important work worldwide.  As a Utilitarian, I could calculate the moral worth of these options; all I have to determine is which would provide the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’[24].  It would seem I am morally bound to willing my riches to UNICEF.  These principles provide a rational defence for a specific moral judgement, by an appeal to the principle(s).

It is often this ‘calculation’ or ‘programmed response’ factor that, while supposedly making moral decisions easier, disturbs particularists.  This ‘principled irresponsibility’[25] takes moral agency out of the equation, and ignores the real complexity of each individual situation.  Real world situations are singular, not identical with one another.  While it may be correct to say that they share some similar features, this ‘looking away’[26] from the particulars of each situation is, to a particularist, of considerable concern.  As Caputo suggests, the use of principles can lead to an ‘abdication of responsibility’[27], leaving moral judgement to simply determine the action that ‘comes out’ of a formulaic response to inputs, and come what may.  Rather than principles which create moral responses, following principles can lead to immoral outcomes.  Consider the scenario often directed against Kant:

A friend of yours comes to you for help, due to being chased by an alleged murderer.  Your friend is, by all accounts, innocent of any crime.  Not wanting your friend to be murdered, you provide a place for them to hide, and so you know where this hiding place is located. Shortly after, the alleged murderer comes to your door and asks you where your friend is[28].

According to Kant’s principlism, lying is always morally wrong[29], so you must either refrain from saying anything, with its possible ramifications, or tell the truth, and face those consequences.  This certainly does not follow common moral reasoning, and particularism offers us an explanation.  Lying to someone in one situation, say, for personal gain[30], would likely be morally wrong[31]; however that same action, in the case of the murderer at the door, would be morally right.  The valence of lying has a moral reason in favour of performing the action.  A Utilitarian would not necessarily agree with Kant on this issue, since theirs is a consequentialist doctrine, and their emphasis is on maximising the welfare of the greatest number; a Utilitarian would perhaps say it was fine to lie in that situation.  However if the murderer subsequently threatened to replace his original target (your friend) with a family in the next town, whom you have never met, then Utilitarianism would also demand you give up your friend[32].  Particularists point to the difficulty of moral application of a formula; it is never as easy as it appears because multiple different cases can appear to be relevant.  Principles, even by their most ardent proponents, are modified and adjusted in application, and it is at this point, personal judgement then becomes necessary to determine which principle to apply.  This can be affected by our perspective, and serve to demonstrate our own bias.  It becomes possible to restate a maxim in such a way that your desired end is approved[33]; as Caputo suggests, this can make principles become simply a means to ‘getting our way’; a ‘thinly disguised weapon of the will to power’[34].

However, this is not to say the particularist doctrine can, alone, fully meet the challenge of a complete theory, replete with an understanding of what the relevant moral reasons in any given situation might be.  This makes application of a particularist ‘moral calculus’ difficult for individuals looking to determine their right course of action, as well as problematic for analysis of action post-event.  This is a significant hurdle for particularism, which, in its current form, essentially amounts to a ‘critical theory’[35] of principlist ethical systems.  This difficulty, however, does not suggest that we should appeal to principles, because it ethics is too difficult;

Objectivity, Subjectivity and (Im)Partiality

Objectivity is seen as very important for morality, and so is another clear strength of principle-based ethics.  Both Kantian deontology and Utilitarianism suggest this as a matter of course.  As discussed previously, the first formulation of the CI maintains that only actions which could be universalised can be moral.  Furthermore, the second formulation of the CI ensures the absolute autonomy and respect for individuals that comes from impartial application of principle; no exceptions for yourself or anyone else.  Likewise, Utilitarianism informs that all are ‘to count for one, and none more than one’[36].  The objectivity, impartiality and egalitarianism of these theories are seen as a significant strength; it tells us that there is no provision for placing individual desires, over that of the desires of others.  One’s desire to sell a car does not outweigh the desire of the buyer to purchase a car that meets their needs; nor does one’s desire for an expensive car outweigh the greater good from purchasing a good bicycle and investing the excess funds into a benevolent society.  Principle based theories do not favour any one person over another, and avoids the subjective special pleading of a moral agent attempting to shirk their responsibilities.

This argument, against ‘partiality’, ‘special pleading’ and ‘backsliding’ can be a problem for particularism.  Firstly, the partiality of particularism is criticised, claiming that special treatment of persons based on their relationship to you is immoral.  On this view, morality requires universality, and so should be applied equally to all.  However, just as the framing of an issue can lead to particular decisions on the appropriate moral principle to use, framing the issues in an alternate way can point to a problem with impartiality.  A particularist viewpoint would generally disagree with the impartiality requirement at all.  Consider the impartial view: If a building is burning, with your partner, and an aloof, but brilliant scientist acquaintance who has just now found a cure for some insidious disease still inside and you could only save one of them, the greatest good would demand you ignore your partner’s pleas, and save the scientist, since they would offer greater value to the whole[37].  In the utilitarian calculus, humans are atomistic and need to be radically egalitarian; it expects us to place no value on those close to us. However, humans are not as atomistic as is assumed, and perhaps desired by principlist views; dependence and interdependence are key features of our existence.   Particularist views might instead call for a partialist stance, where those who stand in particular relations are afforded a greater degree of care[38].  Any moral system based on reference to rules and principles alone (and which thus discounts the emotions and intuitions, including empathy, as well as the proper satisfaction in doing good both immediately and habitually) is unliveable and necessarily leads either to hypocrisy or to the abandonment of morality itself[39].

Secondly, ‘special pleading’ suggests that the recognition of differences between cases can allow, or even promote the assumption that one has greater importance than another; almost a reversal of Kant’s CI.  Principles are supposed to stop, to provide a bulwark against this sort of attitude.  However, as Dancy suggests, instead of appealing to principles to allay bias in moral judgement, it rather should demand better moral judgement from moral agents[40].  While this is as yet an insufficiently developed area in moral particularism, it is unlikely that a principle based morality would not face this same issue; as has already been demonstrated, a deontological principle can be wielded to produce any desired outcome, and likewise, with a utilitarian view – all that is required is fudging the numbers, and since these individual ‘moral calculations’ are not public, then there is no guarantee of fidelity to the situation.  Dancy suggests that we implore self-critique[41], and while flawed, the appeal to principle cannot solve the problem either.  A promising direction for improving this in the direction of particularism is the use of features of other systems, in particular, the Virtue Ethics of Aristotle[42].

Backsliding suggests that a lack of principles would be liable to cause a failure to meet moral obligations all too often; responsibility for action would wane[43].  This is an interesting criticism, particularly when considering what it is to meet responsibilities under Kantian deontology.  Reflect that, under the dutiful nature of Kant’s doctrine, only acts done from duty have moral worth.  Our responsibilities are based on duty; compassion, generosity, and love may be fine things, but they cannot be moral things[44].   This stands in opposition to common conception of morality; acting in a certain way from a sense of obligation does not normally inspire moral praise[45] – in fact, in some positions, merely acting from duty can inspire moral blame, because it fails to demonstrate adequate sentiment for those other persons[46].  The divorced parent who collects their children once a fortnight and provides financial support for their care, for the sake of duty, does not often seem to be exemplars of moral virtue; on the contrary, it is the dutiful nature of their acts which serve to make them seem etiolated[47].  Particularists may be suggesting that the person of principle ‘has lost sight of the person among the general rules; perhaps indeed he is insufficiently aware of what the rules are for’[48].  Backsliding, if it so consists in seeing a duty but failing to carry it out, may not always be a negative; it could be neutral.  Even where it is negative, as in a case of failing in a ‘duty’ to act, other factors can provide information that modifies moral judgement; the person may lack of empathy, misunderstand the situation, inappropriately assist, or feel helpless.  If we happen onto a scene where someone is filming an assault, our initial reaction might suggest that the recorder is immoral; questions may be asked about why they have failed to intervene.  However, the act of recording an event like this could have greater potential value, than a failed attempt at rescuing the person – particularly where the physical conditions are seriously threatening.  It may simply be that the person felt unable to intervene, and so began recording in order to provide evidence to the police.  An intervening moral agent might simply have been assaulted or killed in addition to the initial victim, and so been unable to provide evidence of who committed the act, and what happened.  A duty to act, under Kantian deontology, still requires a determination of what a duty consists of in any particular situation.  A duty to help provides no guidance on what constitutes aid towards rescuing a person being attacked.  Purely relying upon principle will not be sufficient.

This essay has provided a brief discussion of the principlist and particularist systems of ethics, in conjunction with their strengths and weaknesses.  It has shown that the principlist systems, often lauded for being universal, easy to apply, and objective, and for those reasons are used in various streams of modern thought, have significant flaws; they fail to recognise the complexity in human life, they are more difficult to apply than is often suggested, and they are too impartial, and can lead to inappropriate judgements.  The particularist stream of thought has been shown to conform to many of our common, pretheoretical notions of morality; an understanding of context, the inability to apply single rules, and the need for recognition of our significant dependent and interdependent relations.  This approach too, has problems, which need to be dealt with more fully.  What is apparent, is that there is still scope for a great deal of improvement in our ethical theory, and that this theory will need to be focused on improving judgement, rather than providing an endless list of maxims, or impersonal appeals to calculation.


Baron, M.W. “Kantian Ethics.” In Three Methods of Ethics: A Debate, edited by M.W. Baron, P. Pettit and M. Slote. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

Bentham, J. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907. http://www.econlib.org/library/Bentham/bnthPML1.html

Blum, Lawrence. “Against Deriving Particularity.” Chap. 9 In Moral Particularism, edited by B. Hooker and M.O. Little, 205 – 26. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Bohman, James. “Critical Theory.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N.  Zalta, 2013. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/.

Caputo, John. “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics.” Chap. 9 In The Ethical, edited by E. Wyschogrod and G. McKenny. Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy, 169 – 80. Oxford: Wiley, 2003.

Dancy, J. Ethics without Principles.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

———. Moral Reasons.  Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

Dancy, Jonathan. “Moral Particularism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N.  Zalta, 2009. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/moral-particularism.

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Hinman, Lawrence M. “Nietzsche, Metaphor, and Truth.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43, no. 2 (1982): 179-99.

Johnson, Robert. “Kant’s Moral Philosophy.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2012. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/kant-moral/.

Kant, Immanuel. “Appendix I:  On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives.” In Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics, edited  London: Kongmans, Green and Col, 1889. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=360&chapter=61936&layout=html&Itemid=27.

———. “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals [1785].” In Ethical Theory: A Concise Anthology, edited by Heimir Geirsson and Margaret R. Holmgren, 113 – 30. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2000.

Mill, J.S. Dissertations and Discussions: Political, Philosophical, and Historical. Vol. 3, Boston: William V. Spencer, 1865.

Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism [1863].” In Philosophy: The Big Questions, edited by R. J. Sample, C. W. Mills and J. P. Sterba, 383-9, 94-8. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Millgram, Elijah. Ethics Done Right: Practical Reasoning as a Foundation for Moral Theory [in English]. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense.” Translated by Daniel Breazeale. In Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870s, 79 – 97. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities P International, Inc., 1997.

Raz, Joseph. “The Truth in Particularism.” Chap. 3 In Moral Particularism, edited by B. Hooker and M.O. Little, 48 – 78. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Rist, John M. Real Ethics: Reconsidering the Foundations of Morality.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Shiu-Hwa Tsu, Peter “Moral Particularism.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited, 2013 http://www.iep.utm.edu/morlpat/.

Singer, Peter. “Equality for Animals.” In Practical Ethics, edited by Peter Singer, 44-71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Slote, M. The Ethics of Care and Empathy.  New York: Routledge, 2007.

Varden, Helga “Kant and Lying to the Murderer at the Door . . .  One More Time: Kant’s Legal Philosophy and Lies to Murderers and Nazis.” Journal of Social Philosophy 41 no. 4 (Winter 2010): 403-21.

[1] For my purposes, ‘Principlist’ is someone who follows a principle-based ethical system (principlism), following the use in Peter  Shiu-Hwa Tsu, “Moral Particularism,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2013 ),  http://www.iep.utm.edu/morlpat/.  Literature sometimes also uses the term ‘moral generalists’, as in Elijah Millgram, Ethics Done Right: Practical Reasoning as a Foundation for Moral Theory  (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 178..

[2] Shiu-Hwa Tsu, “Moral Particularism.”

[3] J. Dancy, Ethics without Principles  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

[4] Kantian Deontology’s Categorical Imperative has three formulations; there are doubts about whether these three ‘formulations’ constitute a monist or pluralist principle theory.  See Robert Johnson, “Kant’s Moral Philosophy,” ed. Edward N. Zalta, Summer 2012 ed., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2012),  http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/kant-moral/.

[5] Jonathan Dancy, “Moral Particularism,” ed. Edward N.  Zalta, Spring 2009 ed.Ibid. (2009),  http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/moral-particularism.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Japanese wooden sword, used for non-lethal, but still dangerous sword training.

[9] Perhaps bokken practice with your mother as a training partner.  It is not clear that causing pain is a morally relevant or necessarily charged factor in this sort of situation.

[10] Or woman – no gender implicit in this usage of (hu)‘man’

[11] This highlights an essential difference in the values of actions – between the ‘evaluation’ and ‘guiding’ functions of an action; Joseph Raz, “The Truth in Particularism,” in Moral Particularism, ed. B. Hooker and M.O. Little (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 60.

[12] Immanuel Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals [1785],” in Ethical Theory: A Concise Anthology, ed. Heimir Geirsson and Margaret R. Holmgren (Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2000), 120 – 25.

[13] John Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” in The Ethical, ed. E. Wyschogrod and G. McKenny, Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy (Oxford: Wiley, 2003), 171.

[14] “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” in The Ethical, ed. E. Wyschogrod and G. McKenny, Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy (Oxford: Wiley, 2003), 175.

[15] “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.

[16] The consequences of which will be discussed in the section ‘Objectivity, Subjectivity and (Im)Partiality’

[17] Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense,” in Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870s (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities P International, Inc., 1997).

[18] Lawrence M. Hinman, “Nietzsche, Metaphor, and Truth,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43, no. 2 (1982): 187, 88.

[19] Dancy, “Moral Particularism; Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 173,75.

[20] The common tendency to consider a general rule, and measure moral permissibility from it; “I promised to do the dishes, so I must do them” – the unstated ‘principled’ premise is ‘I must fulfil my promises’.

[21] Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals [1785],” 120.

[22] Irrationality aside.

[23] Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals [1785],” 124.

[24] J Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), http://www.econlib.org/library/Bentham/bnthPML1.html 4 of 21, para I.1, note 6., with associated considerations, Chapter IV, para IV2-IV; John Stuart Mill, “Utilitarianism [1863],” in Philosophy: The Big Questions, ed. R. J. Sample, C. W. Mills, and J. P. Sterba (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 385-89. Whilst Mill suggests greater moral worth in the higher pleasures, than the lower ones, it is highly unlikely he would allow for higher pleasures to take greater precedence over basic needs.

[25] Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.

[26] J. Dancy, Moral Reasons  (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 63-63.

[27] Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.

[28] Reformulated version of the ‘Inquiring Murderer’ case by Constant, in Immanuel Kant, “Appendix I:  On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives,” 4th revised ed., Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics (London: Kongmans, Green and Col, 1889),  http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=360&chapter=61936&layout=html&Itemid=27.

[29] This, of course, has been questioned, for example, in Helga  Varden, “Kant and Lying to the Murderer at the Door . . .  One More Time: Kant’s Legal Philosophy and Lies to Murderers and Nazis,” Journal of Social Philosophy 41 no. 4 (2010).However, as the author herself noted, this is not the traditional interpretation.

[30] Like above in the ‘false promise’ issue.

[31] Though a particularist would not generalise this, since there may be cases where lying for personal gain could be morally right.

[32] Utilitarianism is strictly impartial, as discussed in the next section

[33] M.W. Baron, “Kantian Ethics,” in Three Methods of Ethics: A Debate, ed. M.W. Baron, P. Pettit, and M. Slote (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 73.

[34] Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.

[35] In a broad sense: see James Bohman, “Critical Theory,” ed. Edward N.  Zalta, Spring 2013 ed., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2013),  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/.

[36] J.S. Mill, Dissertations and Discussions: Political, Philosophical, and Historical, vol. 3 (Boston: William V. Spencer, 1865), 388; sometimes called the ‘equal consideration of interests’, pace Peter Singer, “Equality for Animals,” in Practical Ethics, ed. Peter Singer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 48.

[37] Reconstruction of Godwin’s thought experiment W. Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, (London: J. Watson, 1842), http://archive.org/details/enquiryconcernin01godwuoft. 60.

[38] M. Slote, The Ethics of Care and Empathy  (New York: Routledge, 2007), 21.

[39] John M. Rist, Real Ethics: Reconsidering the Foundations of Morality  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 120.

[40] Dancy, “Moral Particularism.”

[41] Ibid.

[42] This relates to a future topic of personal interest – joining Particularism with Virtue Ethics for moral education.

[43] Dancy, “Moral Particularism.”

[44] Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals [1785],” 115; Lawrence Blum, “Against Deriving Particularity,” in Moral Particularism, ed. B. Hooker and M.O. Little (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 207.

[45] “Against Deriving Particularity,” 213.

[46] Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 179.

[47] Rist, Real Ethics: Reconsidering the Foundations of Morality, 121.

[48] Ibid.