Particularists & Generalists in Moral Dilemmas


Pearls_Before_Swine 12-17-10.gif

We don’t have to be able to define morality to be faced with moral dilemmas, but for the sake of knowledge, I’ll define it. Simply put it’s “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.”

A moral dilemma exists when there’s conflict between at least two good traits. Let’s say someone asks you a question about your friend. If you answer truthfully, you’ll be breaking a promise but if you keep your promise, you’ll resort to lying. In both instances, you’ll have to choose one moral rule over the other, either don’t lie or don’t break promises. In such cases, many people become skeptical about moral rules, while others create rules of their own: “I will always lie to keep a promise.”

When addressing moral dilemmas, we can divide people into two groups:

  1. Moral Generalists who believe that morality is governed by rules, therefore, they are always true.
  2. Particularists who believe that morality is not governed by any kind of rules because our actions are context sensitive, thus, moral rules are not always true.

When faced with a moral dilemma, a moral generalist who believes that “don’t lie” is always true, won’t lie, regardless of the promise that’s being broken and vice versa. A moral generalist’s view is flawed because it overlooks the fact that moral rules can conflict with one another. What if one believed that both “don’t lie” and “don’t break a promise” are always true. Won’t they follow the ways of particularists? If “don’t lie” is always true but by telling the truth you are ending someone’s life, doesn’t it become more important to save a life rather than tell the truth?

A particularist, on the other hand, will choose to lie or break a promise based on the context. “Is keeping a promise more important than telling the truth?” In this situation a particularist might question the nature of the promise; e.g. is it harming my friend, or question the reasons behind lying; e.g. am I protecting my friend? In short, in some context, it becomes okay to lie or break a promise. It’s also possible that it becomes a moral duty to break a “moral rule” in some cases.

Particularism is criticized for reasons, including:

  1. One has to be rational in order to make a decision. This means that if the context was replicated with different people, the decision will always be the same. Not every person will make rational decisions in the same context; for instance, they might have different motivating factors. This is why having “moral rules” as rules of thumb is helpful.
  2. It overlooks the weight of making moral judgments, comparing it to simple everyday decisions.

8 thoughts on “Particularists & Generalists in Moral Dilemmas

  1. I would like to say thank you Alyazya for your continued support so that in the future you may consider dropping by and visiting again but of course that is solely up you since I won’t be blogging for sometime… I’ve already shared my past in such a way that I hid it within layers for privacy reasons and don’t feel the need to write anymore for the time being… Thank you for sharing your truth openly without filters I do not have that type of courage so it is refreshing to read your blog from time to time… thanks again

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my god, I woke up to your comment and it made me so happy! I really like your blog so I’ll always be visiting it but why are you taking a break 😦 Is everything okay? Is there anything I can do?


    2. Well I already put out all of the poems I had written and collected over the years, well the ones that were viewable some where over extended so I reserved not publish many. I am taking a break to have enough time to catch up on a lot of reading I have to do and draw more images that wanted to publish eventually with…well. There is something I have been wanting to ask you. You can be as forth coming as possible. Would it be culturally insensitive to write something along the lines of 1001 nights? Well my own take on it, I’ll take your advice into consideration, when deciding of how will I approach this next interest. Oh and if you don’t mind me suggesting your next anime, well if you haven’t seen it yet, check out full metal alchemist.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I can’t wait to see your drawings ∩(︶▽︶)∩. I hope you visit my blog while you’re gone though. As for the writing, no, I don’t think it is insensitive. You’re a writer and you have the right to explore whatever topic you want. You can contact me regarding the small little details! I’m always happy to help! THANK YOU, I’M ACTUALLY WATCHING THE BROTHERHOOD VERSION RIGHT NOW ∩__∩!!

      Liked by 1 person

    4. I’ll be visiting your blog without a doubt. Your approach in bringing to light the difficulties and challenges of beings of many walks of life is just one of reasons I visit casually. As regards to contacting you on any reference. Pertaining to the context that I am uncertain of would be helpful and appreciated. Your writing is subtle like an interval between two notes that foreshadows a crescendo it appeals to me… I do have other drawings that I will not be using you can contact me as well if your in search of something surreal or abstract since that’s my specialty… The best way to contact me is through email or just send me a message on my blog thanks again… oh and the ending of full metal alchemist brotherhood is memorable and emotional, I learned a few things from it

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.