On the Generality of Morality: Accountability and Societal Impracticality of Particularism


  •   Linghui Zhou


This paper focuses on the debate between Jonathan Dancy and Brad Hooker regarding the validity of moral particularism and investigates whether both philosophers have overlooked any important factors in their discussions. According to Jonathan Dancy’s ideas of particularism, morality which encompasses our moral thought, judgment, and the possibility of moral distinctions, is independent of the codification of moral principles. He appeals to holism in the theory of reasons to defend his belief that the same property or feature that is a reason in one case can count morally for or against action in different circumstances. Hooker, on the other hand, takes issue with Dancy’s account by suggesting that moral particularism is socially impractical, and Dancy’s provision of premises ought to be overwhelmingly plausible. Hooker argues that moral particularism fails to provide the moral assurance that is required of a shared commitment to morality that brings about mutually beneficial practices that we can generalize in consideration of the features of contexts in which they take place within the specification of reason(s) for belief and action. By comparing Hooker’s example involving theoretical particularist Patty and the Rossian generalist Gerry with Dancy’s rebuttal, this paper propounds that Dancy and Hooker both insufficiently address the conceptual relation between moral obligation and accountability within the moral domain. Morality as accountability does not exclusively relate to the valuable consequences of creating and following rules and principles. Rather, it entails our obligations conceptually to hold ourselves mutually accountable if and only if there are existing general rules and principles that are also accessible to all members within the community bounded by such common moral knowledge.

Keywords: Brad Hooker, Ethical Theory, Holism, Jonathan Dancy, Moral Particularism, Rossian Generalism.


Dancy, J. (1993). Moral reasons. Oxford: Blackwell.

Dancy, J. (2004). Ethics without principles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Darwall, S. (2013). Morality, authority, and law: essays in second-personal ethics I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hooker, B. Moral particularism: wrong and bad. Moral particularism, eds. Hooker B. & Little M. O. (2000). Moral particularism.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-23.

McKeever, S., & Ridge, M. (2005). What Does Holism Have To Do With Moral Particularism? Ratio, 18(1), 93–103.



How to Cite
Zhou, L. (2022). On the Generality of Morality: Accountability and Societal Impracticality of Particularism. European Journal of Theology and Philosophy, 2(4), 7–12. https://doi.org/10.24018/theology.2022.2.4.67