Lawrence Blum on Particularity

"Particularity, as I understand it, is knowledge of the moral character of the particular situation facing a moral agent at a particular time."

"The understanding of particular persons in particular situations is an essential capability of a morally mature individual."

"If one accepts for the moment a central role for universal principles in the moral life, an individual whom we would regard as morally mature or morally developed would still have to do more than know how to arrive at, or reason to, moral principles. That individual would also have to live according to those principles. And what I am arguing is that to live according to those principles requires particularity -- the understanding of particular situations, which in turn involves (in part) caring attentiveness to individual persons."

"Particularity, while cognitive, is more bound up with our emotional natures."

"Discerning which action best instantiates a given principle requires judgment about the particularities of the situation."

"Knowing how to apply the principle, how to pick the best among the possible actions instantiating the principle involves a moral capacity beyond the adoption of, or recognition of the validity of, the principle itself."

Lawrence Blum


Want to have a look at some thoughts on how attention to particularity might play out in educational psychology?