Particularism and Productivity Argument

Matjaž Potrč

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia;


Moral generalist presents the particularist as someone rejecting patterns, thereby embracing arbitrary classificatory decisions. The productivity argument is proposed then, according to which potential production of an infinite number of novel cases on the basis of a finite number of encountered cases is only possible with the assistance of a codifiable pattern assuring projectability. It is argued that the generalist presentation of the particularist undertaking is unjustifiably limited to codifiable tractable procedures leading to the formation of evaluative judgment. Particularist has no problem with the relevance if each occasion of a judgment formation is supported by a non-tractable rich pattern requiring intuitive judgment. A list of such holistic particular judgments cannot be unified by an underlying tractable pattern, but each of the items on the list still presents an individual rich holistic pattern belonging to the same cognitive system.




Generalists believe that there exists an indispensable link between normativity and generality. General patterns enable projectability and therewith the extension to novel cases. Productivity argument claims that only codifiable kinds of patterns assure extension to a virtual infinity of novel cases on the basis of a restricted number of consulted cases. We judge in some instances that these singular acts are morally right. General pattern enables projectability of the same kind of judgment.

                  Productivity argument is directed against particularism, which does not recognize general patterns. The argument starts with the statement of arbitrary and non-relevant nature of particularism’s descriptive basis. It opts for codifiable patterns that enable finite creatures’ projectability to reach a potential infinity of novel cases.

                  Contrary to this generalist view it may be argued that particularism is well compatible with the existence of general patterns, but that it cannot recognize the general patterns’ normative authority. There is no reason for general patterns to be indispensable in the formation of evaluative judgments. Reasons it is not so involve nature of the cognitive system that follows principles of dynamical cognition. A standard explanation why this is so comes from the failure of confirmation theory. Here to the contrary the richness and noncodifiability of the system functioning holistically in a quasi-synchronic manner is used as a direct support for particularism. The study of judgments belongs to the area of cognition. List of appropriate cognitive transitions is not fully systematizable. Potential cognitive transitions that follow the nature of morphological content outstrip general principles.

                  The generalist argument presented here is inspired by the paper “Ethical Particularism and Patterns” by Jackson, Pettit and Smith.



Patterns in ethical monism, pluralism and particularism are preliminarily introduced and surveyed. Some usual examples of patterns are given with an eye on the question whether they involve generality.


Patterns in ethical monism, pluralism and in particularism

Patterns are important for an account of relations between ethical generalism and ethical particularism.

Ethical generalists such as monistic utilitarians believe that


X is right if X maximizes expected happiness


and this provides to them the pattern with the help of which to fall the judgment whether an act is right. Utilitarians also believe that this pattern provides a surveyable or codifiable tractable manner for determining the rightness of an act, although the application of the principle in concrete cases may involve several considerations.

                  Ethical pluralists are a species of generalists. They believe that there exist several patterns belonging to the prima facie duties related principles. One of these is the duty of improving oneself and another is the duty of gratitude. Actual duties differ from the prima facie duties. They have to be observed in concrete situations where several prima facie duties come together and where it is impossible to fully respect them all. In this concrete situation I decide to respect the duty of improving myself even if this happens at the cost of not being simultaneously able to fulfill the duty of gratitude. This kind of frequently and even regularly encountered situation presents a case where two general patterns come into one hopper and where they compete against each other. There may be even more than two patterns coming together and molding themselves in concrete cases. The overall pattern applied to the situation and underlying the decision about which act is right will then not be so clear cut as this was the case for the monist. Because of this blurring of the pattern, more weight is put on the context bound intuition in forming of the judgment. The contextual pressure in concrete situations blurs the shape of each tractable pattern as several of them come together. Nevertheless pluralist does not abandon the clearness and therewith the authority of each of the patterns based on the prima facie duties. Pattern belonging to the duty of the gratitude, in his view, will stay perfectly sharply cut as prima facie duty, despite that it was overridden or even silenced in the situation where the duty of self-improvement won the prize. Pluralist will not wish to deny that pattern belonging to the duty of gratitude is worth to be respected as the prima facie duty, despite that it was overridden in the situation of the actual duty.

                  Ethical particularists, so it seems, argue against the existence of any tractable patterns that would apply in concrete situations, such as these that are encountered by us on the daily basis. So they embrace the pluralists’ contextual leaning towards the intuition-based judgment in concrete situations, whose ground are actual duties’ blurred patterns. Contextual pressure makes it hard to respect the tractability of the pattern. Particularists certainly disagree with general projectible patterns that are characteristic for the monists. Their main position is that, even if there are patterns, they do not have any normative authority. We are constantly confronted with specific particular situations in which we have to fall intuitive evaluative judgments. The disagreement is thus between generalists and particularists, and it involves the importance that each of them attributes to patterns. While generalists argue that an appropriate judgment is not possible without the presence of tractable or codifiable patterns, particularists rather embrace a list of situations where judgments are made without any underlying grid or shape.


Some usual examples of patterns

Before specifying the role of patterns in ethical reasoning and especially in particularism, it is appropriate to take a look at some cases of patterns outside that area. As the main claim of the generalist is that patterns are deeply intertwined with generality, we will try to establish whether patterns as encountered outside the realm of moral reasoning display this inkling towards generality. The result will be that at least some of patterns are not substantially bound to generality.

                  The first example of a pattern that comes to the mind is the famous duck/rabbit illusion example. In the basis of the phenomenon is a certain shape, a line of specific form drawn on a piece of paper. As you encounter the shape you immediately grasp it as the pattern representing a duck. You do not need the time for reflection; you rather intuit the pattern momentarily. You are psychologically glued to the pattern, as at the moment you cannot help to grasp the shape otherwise as the duck pattern. At the time you are attuned to perceiving the shape as a pattern representing a duck, you are pattern-blind as to the possibility of perceiving pattern as a rabbit. Once your starting position is being attuned to the duck pattern, some effort and some pattern-switch is necessary in order for you to perceive the shape as the pattern representing a rabbit. The whole phenomenon centers on the pattern switch. And each of the states in the switch is related to the very forceful intuiting of one pattern at the exclusion of the other. Both patterns may be recognized though – although not simultaneously – on the basis of the same shape. Is there some generality in this pattern recognition? There is just powerful intuiting of a particular way for me to see the shape. Just to repeat it: there is pattern switch between two ways of seeing the shape, accompanied with deep intuitive grasp of one of the patterns, to the exclusion of the other. But it does not seem that there is any generality involved into the example of duck/rabbit, or any projectability. There is no projection involved from duck to rabbit, and there is nothing general involved into the transition between them. One may claim that once you grasp the pattern of a rabbit, this may help you to project the pattern to other similar cases. But this is not the point of the example. In general, the pattern is not there in order to enable you the projection to further cases. Just the singular intuition based experience is what matters.

                  Some people working in aesthetics claim that grasping a work of art consists in grasping of the pattern involved in this work. Or maybe it consists in grasping of one among the patterns involved into work of art, for there may be many of these constituting it. This would then be a generalized case of pattern switching. It may happen that you hear a symphony for the first time and that you recognize a pattern in it. Then you have some aesthetic pleasure. But as you come back listening to the same symphony again, such as Brahms symphony number 2, you may recognize several patterns on several different occasions of listening to it. Each of these will bring you a different kind of aesthetic pleasure. Perhaps after a while this will allow you to intuit a further pattern at a higher level, which will become present to you in an intuitive flash. Patterns may be comparatively easily recognized in some works of arts such as pictures. But take an opera such as Mozart’s Don Juan that involves ballet, the orchestra, several singers and changing scenery. You may be able to intuit a pattern involved into this performance of opera at some level if you will be careful to follow several of various pattern threads. These patterns will come together from various directions and they will unite in an overall form supporting your aesthetic pleasure and the judgment that you form on its basis. Opera certainly shows an example of a complex pattern, whose intuiting, at the time you grasp it, will probably happen in a flash, in a moment full of experience. Now ask yourself if the pattern involved into the opera is there in order to allow you the projection of similar experiences at other occasions? This does not seem to be the case. Pattern is involved in your aesthetic enjoyment and this is why it is so tightly connected to the intuition.

                  This brief survey of two examples involving patterns that may first come to the mind shows us first that several patterns may be intertwined and multiply involved into a single phenomenon, giving the occasion for appearance of some superimposed pattern. And it also shows that there is no projective role involved into the grasping of the pattern.

The case of the opera has shown us that on the basis of the pattern, which you discover in it, you just form judgment about the goodness of this performance. There exists a very complex descriptive basis for formation of this judgment. But there is no generalization involved. The judgment is about this specific performance. It may be claimed that the forming of this judgment allows you to project similar judgments in the possible subsequent cases. But what are similar judgments? Certainly some skill of judgment develops along your opera involving experiences, but still it may be seen as concrete application of judgment to each separate particular case. So there is no clear role for projectability here, and thus no clear role assigned to the general.

                  We took a look at a couple of patterns. The result is that these patterns do not involve any tractability and that they rather depend on intuitions. One shape can be apprehended and intuited in several different ways.

                  Now look at the following case. A person opens the door for you, greets you, and offers you a drink. At some moment the pattern you intuit is that the person behaves friendly in respect to you. Adding some relevant information, at some further moment you intuit that this behavior is designed to profit from you in some unexpected area. The first pattern has judgment of goodness attached to it; the second has judgment about incorrect behavior related to it. Patterns change and sometimes they may even appear on the basis of the same kind of descriptive behavior. And it is hard to see the role for generalization in this case as well.


Systematizing of lists: by general principles?

A list of cases that may be supported by patterns is presented. Then a list of evaluative cases follows, with the question being asked whether it needs to be systematized by exceptionless principles.


Lists and projectability?

It may be claimed that examples of patterns above do not involve projectability, and that therefore they are not the kinds of examples the discussion of particularism needs to be involved with.

                  Here is a kind of example pointing into this direction that does not belong to the realm of morals, but should show us the usefulness of patterns in enabling general conclusions and projectability, the ability to extend our judgment to novel cases.

                  Presume you do not know the meaning of expression “being taller”. In order to get the meaning of the expression through to you, I offer you the following diet of examples (compare Jackson, Pettit and Smith):


                  If X has 170 cm and Y has 180 cm, then Y is taller than X.

                  If X has 190 cm and Y has 200 cm, then Y is taller than X.


                  If X has 150 cm and Y has 140 cm, then Y is not taller than X.


We can claim that the diet of examples is offered here in order for you to grasp the pattern, and once you grasp the pattern – once you understand the meaning of expression – this enables you to extend it to novel cases. There is thus a possible projection involved into the grasping of the pattern.

                  But what has happened? While being confronted with the first two examples, you may not have grasped the pattern yet. Then, because of some similarity or because of some particular feature, you intuit the pattern in a recognizing flash.

                  You can now apply the concept to novel cases. This is then a case of projectability.

                  But now ask yourself: Do you apply the concept to novel cases because you have grasped the concept? In a sense yes: The understanding of the concept allows you to use it again. But each particular case will have to be judged by you in respect to whether the predicate can be applied. The generalist suggests that this just means subsuming of the case under a pattern.

                  But each particular case on the list above may be seen just as a particular item.

                  I made the effort to get you acquainted with the meaning of “being taller than”, and this is a kind of teaching. Not all teaching is done by the usage of generalizations though. Teaching may involve the acquisition of skills. Skills also enable us to use our knowledge in subsequent situations. But this is not because of the generalizations involved in apprehending skills.

                  Take again the teaching of children involving visiting museums and galleries. There do not need to be generalizations involved in the activity. Teacher would just point to a feature on the picture, as a way of presenting an example about what a good work of art is. It does not seem that any real generalization is involved into the procedure. If several pictures are consulted and not just one, this list still does not give place to any tractable projectable generalization or to a tractable pattern unifying them. But something is learned nevertheless.

                  This may incite us to ask the following: Even if we assume that generalizations are built into patterns – is the extension to the future cases secured? If the extension is of a tractable codifiable kind then it may require some parameters that are hard to be confidently applied to the situations. Because such tractable/codifiable extension would have unwanted consequences in several cases, the judgment involving patterns cannot be fallen mechanically; rather the formation of judgment requires centering of attention at the specificity of particular cases.

                  Take the list of examples illustrating the case of “being higher as”. There is indeed a list of examples here. At some point one intuits that there is a pattern. But it would be perhaps premature to simply believe that this is a tractable pattern, or that generality has the authority here. Generality does not have exceptionless authority, which is for certain – inductive reasoning is not exceptionless and it always allows for counterexamples. But also, our judgments are fallen on the individual basis.

                  The main question is perhaps whether the list is confidently systematized by exceptionless principles. At least this is not the only possibility there is. One may observe the list in several ways. From one perspective, one may systematize the list in a general exceptionless way involving each particular case, but there are also possible systematizings that allow for exceptions or even for singular instances to preserve and affirm their authority.


Evaluative lists systematized by general principles?

The above example of “being higher as” is a descriptive one. Moral theorizing on the other hand is concerned with evaluative terms.

                  The problem may be then put in terms of transition from “is” to “ought”, the transition between the descriptive and the evaluative realms: D → E.

                  Particularists do not deny that evaluative supervenes on the descriptive, at least in the weak sense. In order to put the story in terms of properties: If there is an evaluative property E, it may be assumed that there is a descriptive subvenient basis D upon which the property E supervenes.

                  Taking this line of thought brings us to a number of different cases where E supervenes on D. These cases are then naturally put in the form of a list:


                  D1 → E1

                  D2 → E2


                  Dn → En


Particularist thus agrees with the supervenience of E upon D for each particular case. What she does not agree with is the idea of the existence of unifying underlying general pattern that would unite all these cases.

                  In any case, given that we have a list, it may be systematized by several standards of tightness. The tightest form of systematizing would involve exceptionless principles. Some more relaxed form would involve generalizations that allow for exceptions. And the most relaxed form of the list would not introduce any underlying pattern at all; it would just leave particular cases with their complete individual authority.

                  So, it is at least possible that list is not systematized by general principles. But the thought should be surveyed now whether the list should be systematized by general principles at all.

                  One main problem about this comes in terms of relevance. Is relevance better served if one proceeds by exceptionless systematizing, by systematizing allowing for exceptions or by individual cases using no general pattern?

                  The first thought is that relevance would be better served and that it would be best determined by exceptionless general systematization. But a powerful consideration against this is the frame problem. The problem of where to put the frame around an area to achieve its relevant functioning surfaces exactly because exceptionless general tractable rules are employed in order to systematize the area. Tractability thus does not solve relevance, but gives us an encounter with it in the form of a problem.

                  It also seems that relevance is only achieved in a wimpy way if there are general rules with exceptions. The situations in which we make evaluations involve an irreducible complexity most of the time. But we do not fail to be relevant in those situations on the basis of particularly based decisions. On the other hand, if one follows tractable rules in one’s decisions for actions, one’s judgment often airs a mechanistic handling. This all shows that lists of evaluative terms or properties should better not be systematized by exceptionless rules. General patterns unifying single cases may be far sooner harming than bringing any benefit to the nature of evaluative terms. The reason seems to be simple. Evaluative terms are related to judgments, and judgments are rather tied to intuition than to the exceptionless rules. This is at least one reason why particularism would be better of than the practice of putting general projectible patterns under the list in order to systematize it.

There are several ways of withholding the normative authority of the general. Just pointing to a feature in teaching does not involve the usage of any generality. Epistemic normativity may be important because of retroactively after the fact cashing in the generalities. But this kind of generality is epistemic, it just explains, and so it is without normative authority. From this point of view the epistemic normativity and its link to lists and to the semantic normativity may be surveyed.


Arbitrariness and the weirdly blinking machine

In respect to the list of evaluative items the particularist claim seems to be simply that there is no pattern involved. For the example of the descriptive to the evaluative conditionals one could build a complex conditional


                  D1 v D2 v …→ E


From the disjunction of all the descriptive items in the list, one is entitled to derive the evaluative judgment or property, as for the matter.

                  This may seem to be a generalization. But notice that it will be a kind of generalization that should not respect any pattern, for we are dealing with the particularist. There will be no “and so on” at the end of the story. And if no pattern is respected, the thought is here that there will be arbitrariness in the choice of items. Isn’t this exactly what characterizes the lack of pattern: the arbitrariness of choice? The trick is though that despite of arbitrary procedure, one is still able to classify things, say in the rubrics of acts that are right and in the rubric of acts that aren’t right.

                  In order to show how this is possible, generalist introduces a device that according to his taste and understanding produces the effect of dual classification on an arbitrary basis. The machine is thus designed to classify the shapes that it encounters into the ones upon the presence of which it will blink and into the ones upon the presence of which it will not blink. The principle according to which this is effectuated is as follows: Blink if there is appearance of the shape on the even occasion, and do not blink if there is appearance of the shape on the odd turn. You get the following two conditionals that take care of the distribution:


                  If presented object has shape … or … or …, then the  light will blink.

                  If presented object has shape … or … or …, then the light will not blink.


                  Compare this to the following two conditionals:


D1 v D3 v …→ E+

D2 v D4 v …→ E-


Here the disjunctive antecedents lead to the positive evaluative term (right) in the first case and to the negative evaluative term (not right) in the second case.

                  The fact is that in both cases, the classification of items on the list into two oppositely valued categories was obtained on the basis of an arbitrary – without any pattern – selection of items. So, there is indeed categorization of shapes that trigger the blinking of light and of those that don’t into two large sets. And the same goes for the sets of right acts and of the acts that are not right according to the understanding of the particularist and according to his way to classify the matters. The main idea is that the members of a category are obtained, but they are obtained on a completely arbitrary basis.

                  Just take a look at the objects whose shapes are united in the category according to which the machine’s light will blink. At the end of the day, is there any other criterion around as the one that says how these are the shapes such that the light does blink in their presence? Exactly this last one is the criterion that stays, and nothing else.

                  From this point of view, the particularist will be in the same position. Because there is no pattern involved in his categorization choice, the only criterion for the right acts to find themselves in their own category is just that they are right acts. But this seems to be arbitrary and actually it seems to involve circularity of the right acts’ understanding.


Productivity argument

The situation is a good departure now for the productivity argument as proposed by the generalist in an effort to criticize the particularist for his lack of patterns. Here is a form of the productivity argument.


P1 Classifying the right acts on an arbitrary basis just as the right acts is circular.

P2 Something more is needed for classification: a projectability enabling codifiable pattern.

P3 Only codifiable pattern allows for the productivity, i.e. the grasping of a potential infinity of elements on the finite basis of presented samples.

.: Thus, a pattern is necessary for productivity to be obtained.



The first premise was already introduced by explanation of the weirdly blinking machine. The main claim of the premise is about the classification’s arbitrary basis. And the conclusion of the premise is that the arbitrariness leads to circularity. The only uncomfortable thing is that the premise is itself a kind of circular in respect to the argument in its entirety, for it seems to presuppose the embracing of pattern in opposition to arbitrariness. Because of this, this first premise may not necessarily be seen as figuring as a constitutive block of the argument. In a way it just prepares us for what follows. A questionable point in this first premise is the presupposition that the particularist classification is arbitrary. The dilemma seems to be offered in the following way: either some tractable codifiable principle, or arbitrariness and anarchy.



The second premise introduces the need for something more as some arbitrary criterion if classification is to be effectively obtained. One could agree that something more is needed if particularist classification is completely arbitrary, just according to the tastes of something like the weirdly blinking machine. But this may not be the case at all. Consider that the particularist endorses richness and holism of the situation and of the cognitive constituency that enables him falling normative judgment concerning the situation. Even the monist may go for some reversals as he deals with situations. But monist and generalist will care about tractability and codifiability of the criteria applied in situations. And it is possible that arbitrariness is introduced by the criteria proper to the taste of the generalist in this respect. Take a closer look at the weirdly blinking machine. It may begin to look as a parody of the particularist position. Arbitrariness is there indeed if the rules for choice involving members of classificatory set are tractable and arbitrary. In this respect the weird blinking machine is in fact designed according to the taste of the generalist insisting on codifiability. The presuppositions of the particularist may be differently shaped. And indeed, if particularist is holistic to the point of essentially not embracing codifiability and tractability, then the relevance may come to her even without a tractable pattern, but on the basis of the rich structure of each particular judgment forming. The relevant judgment will be fallen on the basis of each single pattern involving the whole of the structure at a time. This just involves taking a look at the cognitive system contributing to the judgment. The structure is proper to each single instance of evaluative judgment formed upon the basis of the rich non-codifiable system as a whole in its entirety, at a time. Codifiability even cannot be achieved because of the richness of the structure at a time. And in this way, we obtain a list of situations, where no single situation comes arbitrarily. Each of the situations is still obtained relevantly, although they are not connected between themselves. Is there a pattern in the system as a whole at a time? Even if there is, these patterns molding to the whole are not tractable in the entirety of the situation. We are not talking just about a single codifiable case of reversal here. If all of this is right – as I suppose it is – then the mistake of the generalist in as far as this point is concerned may be put in very simple terms. Generalist presupposes that there are just single patterns involved in the judgment formation, and that these single patterns unify them. But this is unrealistic for any real shape of a cognitive system. Each item on the list would find its place somewhere on a single pattern through time, in an atomistic manner. As against this, the picture of relevance proper to particularist offers radically different holistic patterns, appearing as entirely different to each other on each occasion in time.


                  Generalist                                              Particularist

                  P                                                                    IP1, IP2 … Ipn

                  I1, I2 … In


Generalist has one single pattern P for a kind of judgment to which the different instances of judgments I1, I2 … In get attached through time, just in a way as so many darts gather on a single board to which they get thrown. This picture seems to be static in time and atomistic in the manner instances get stuck onto it.

                  Particularist on the other hand proceeds with repeated usage of the whole system. The presupposition is here that the system is the same, but it changes through time in a dynamical manner so that each pattern comes together with the instance and so that it is particular in this sense. Each of IP1, IP2 … Ipn do indeed happen in a single cognitive system. But the rich uncodifiable system changes to the extent that each instance of a pattern should be taken as a single organic unity.

                  Generalist thus just does not see that arbitrariness is not the right word for characterization of particularism. The rightness and wrongness classification of several judgments is not the cause, it is maybe a retroactive explanation of what has to be presented in holistic manner. In the case of the holist we have the same old and rich cognitive system coming back, but always in a new manner. This is the ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen that the generalist fails to see because of his codifiable simplified assumptions. Particularist does not need more. It already has plenty of more, of richness, of the same – in abundance.

                  Is the projectability needed here? If you look at the particularists’ procedure as described right now, it would not bring any more of relevance to make the pattern projectible. Indeed, what would a projectible pattern of an intractably rich system look like? It is hard to imagine. But we as cognizers are such systems. Perhaps we sometimes do need patterns then, but with no normative authority, just for retroactive explanatory reasons.



The third premise is a further twist, which defends and presupposes codifiable pattern as the only entrance to productivity. We have seen implausibility of codifiable pattern in as far as our cognition is concerned in the former premise. But what is productivity? And, is productivity possible without a codifiable pattern?

                  The most known example of productivity is offered by the hypothesis of transformational grammar. The hypothesis presupposes a structure of grammatical competence, an inborn structure that enables us to take a limited finite linguistic input and to transform it in a virtual infinity of ways. So we have “grasping of potential infinity of elements on the finite basis of presented samples”.

                  Notice now that the example discussed, the list of D→E’s, presents a far too simple structure as compared with the dealings and with the structure of our cognitive system.

                  Tractable structure will just find no way to circumvent the richness of the cognitive system. But if this is like that, then again there are not codifiable patterns that insure generalizations. There is richness of the whole system on different occasions that involves the whole rich structure at a time. This is why intuitions about linguistic correctness (grammaticality, ungrammaticality) are the main tools of linguistic research. No single pattern is needed. Notice the immense complexity of the structure enabling knowledge of language and linguists’ partial empirical accounts of it.

                  Presupposing that there is this innate structure, the explanation of the phenomenon known as productivity comes after the fact. But phenomenon and explanation itself deal with nontractable matters. Even more, the particularist noncodifiable way of achieving productivity in the area of the evaluative seems to be appropriate. Again, if the hypothesis of innate structure is right, then the particularist approach to it seems the most appropriate.

                  The fact is that the innate structure promoted by the transformational hypothesis is so rich that the same system deals with situations as particular rich wholes appearing on several occasions in time.


So, if there is a pattern necessary for productivity to obtain, it will be a non-codifiable pattern of the whole of the rich system structure that gives itself to us in an always-new way. Particular singularity is in power for output as well. So, productivity does not involve one simplified pattern through time, on which atomistic cases may be pinned. Productivity is rather the effect of the ewige Wiederkehr des Gleichen, i.e. of the same rich structure making its holistic appearance in rich particular instances. Always the same, and always different in its instances.


Dynamical cognition based judgments assure relevance upon an intractable basis

Relevance is not a problem for particularist, because it is the product of a rich and intractable structure. It is a problem for the generalist though whose parody of particularism in the form of a weird codifiable blinking machine displays the generalists’ own codifiable inklings.

Some further remarks and objections to the generalist are given here:

-              Inductive generalization is presented by the generalist as the generalization that results in the (deductive) exceptionless principle. But this is not compatible with the nature of inductive reasoning.

-              Is the machine a parody of particularism? Yes. Why? Because it is a machine construed with respect to the tractable codifiable procedures. But this is not how our cognition works. The blinking machine is weird because it is tractable. It also does not take account of the relevance. But relevance is not possible on the tractable basis. The relevance is otherwise easily achieved by nontractable dynamical cognition principles.

-              The insight is that there is the structure based on the richness of cognition and not upon codifiable transitions. And there seems to be a problem lurking here for the particularist: Recognizing the structure, does not he therewith embrace patterns, perhaps something like Rossian ceteris paribus generalizations, and therewith generalism?

The first answer is that some generalizations, even if they are there, are just explanatory and after the fact epistemic ones, without normative authority (they are not metaphysically supported).

Another and more basic reply is that the recognition of the structure cannot be harmful to particularist, provided that it is not a codifiable simplistic wimpy kind of structured pattern. Rich cognition and rich contextual surrounding involve the whole structure at a time (not tractable but something such as experienced time, say). In this way, because of its richness and intractability, this structure pushes into direction of presenting itself according to the particularist ways.



Jackson Frank, Pettit Philip, Smith Michael. (2000) “Ethical Particularism and Patterns”. In Hooker Brad and Little, Margaret, Moral Particularism. Oxford: University Press.


Haney, Mitchell (1999). “Dynamical Cognition, Soft Laws and Moral Theorizing.” Acta Analytica 22. Dettelbach: Roell Verlag. 227-240.


Horgan Terry, Henderson David. (Forthcoming.) “Morphological Content and Justified Belief”.


Horgan Terry, Tienson, John. (1996). Connectionism and Philosophy of Psychology. Massachusetts: MIT Press.


Little, Margaret (2000): “Moral Generalities Revisited”. In Hooker Brad and Margaret Little, Moral Particularism. Oxford: University Press.


Potrč, Matjaž (2000). AJustification Having and Morphological Content@ Acta Analytica 24. Dettelbach: Roell Verlag. 151-173.