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Abstract

In one version, moral particularism says that morality has no need of principles. Jonathan Dancy has argued for this in his recently published Ethics Without Principles. For Dancy, the central issue is whether it is necessary for moral reasons to be codified in principles. He thinks not. This misses the point. Whether or not it needs to be or can be codified, moral agents should not follow rules, on pain of a bad-faith rule-fetishism. The authority of particular cases does not reside in any alleged failure of codifiability. It rests on the fact that moral agents cannot palm off responsibility for their actions on to experts or rules and that they must respond freshly to each case with an appropriate moral reaction: indignation, pity, remorse, etc. Ironically, this reconfiguration of the particularism issue follows from the proper appreciation of a passage from George Eliot, which Dancy cites as his own inspiration.