Here’s a quick summary of and conclusion to my talk on particularism at the Garage Blackboard lectures.
So what are we left with? Particularism is a view of ethics that eschews abstract answers in favour of getting to grips with the complex nature of each situation. We can’t figure out ‘ethics’ in advance: we’ve got to do it with each ethical decision. And ‘ethics’ isn’t a set of scientific laws, waiting to be discovered. It’s the weird, organic interactions between a myriad of factors that change moment to moment. A bit more like biology than physics! Particularism is more demanding – it stops us from leaning on theory, for instance – but it’s also more modest. It lets us withhold judgement all over the place and doesn’t ambitiously try to answer the really general ethical questions. These all seem like good characteristics of an ethics, at least to me. I hope they do to you as well.