Principled Ethics: Generalism as a Regulative Ideal

Paperback | April 20, 2006

bySean Mckeever, Michael Ridge

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Moral philosophy has long been dominated by the aim of understanding morality and the virtues in terms of principles. However, the underlying assumption that this is the best approach has received almost no defence, and has been attacked by particularists, who argue that the traditional linkbetween morality and principles is little more than an unwarranted prejudice. In Principled Ethics, Michael Ridge and Sean McKeever meet the particularist challenge head on, and defend a distinctive view they call 'generalism as a regulative ideal'. After cataloguing the wide array of views that have gone under the heading 'particularism' they explain why the mainparticularist arguments fail to establish their conclusions. The authors' generalism incorporates what is most insightful in particularism (e.g. the possibility that reasons are context-sensitive - 'holism' about reasons) while rejecting every major particularist doctrine. At the same time, theyavoid the excesses of hyper-generalist views according to which moral thought is constituted by allegiance to a particular principle or set of principles. Instead, they argue that insofar as moral knowledge and practical wisdom are possible, we both can and should codify all of morality in amanageable set of principles even if we are not yet in possession of those principles. Moral theory is in this sense a work in progress. Nor is the availability of a principled codification of morality an idle curiosity. Ridge and McKeever also argue that principles have an important role to play inguiding the virtuous agent.

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Moral philosophy has long been dominated by the aim of understanding morality and the virtues in terms of principles. However, the underlying assumption that this is the best approach has received almost no defence, and has been attacked by particularists, who argue that the traditional linkbetween morality and principles is little mor...

Michael Ridge is at University of Edinburgh. Sean McKeever is at Ithaca College, NY.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.65 inPublished:April 20, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199290660

ISBN - 13:9780199290666

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Table of Contents

1. The many moral particularisms2. Holism about reasons3. Default reasons4. Moral vision5. Constitutive generalism6. From moral knowledge to default principles7. Beyond default principles or trimming the hedges8. Generalism as a regulative ideal9. Principled guidanceAppendix

Editorial Reviews

"Despite the attractions of particularism, most philosophers feel that it misses something. McKeever and Ridge turn these vague worries into razor-sharp objections. Then they develop a moderate alternative view of how principles work in morality. For anyone tempted to become a particularist, this book is a powerful deterrent."--Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Dartmouth College "All in all, Principled Ethics is a highly stimulating read. It moves the particularism debate on to a whole new level of sophistication, raising the bar that needs to be jumped by particularists considerably higher. At the same time, it provides new insights into the nature and value of moral principles for those of us that avow a firm commitment to them."--Daniel Star, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews