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Ethics Without Reasons?

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This paper is a discussion of Jonathan Dancy's book Ethics Without Principles (2004). Holism about reasons is distinguished into a weak version, which allows for invariant reasons, and a strong, which doesn't. Four problems with Dancy's arguments for strong holism are identified. (1) A plausible particularism based on it will be close to generalism. (2) Dancy rests his case on common-sense morality, without justifying it. (3) His examples are of non-ultimate reasons. (4) There are certain universal principles it is hard not to see as invariant, such as that the fact that some action causes of suffering to a non-rational being always counts against it. The main difficulty with weak holism is that justification can be seen as analogous to explanation, which will give us an atomistic and generalist conception of a normative reason.

Affiliations: 1: St Anne's College, Oxford, UK, Email: roger.crisp@st-annes.oxford.ac.uk

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