SAAP Annual Meeting 2015

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John Dewey and the Possibility of Particularist Moral Education

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John Dewey’s analyses of habit and tradition enable contemporary moral particularists to make sense of the possibility of moral education. Particularists deny that rules determine an act’s moral worth. Using Jonathan Dancy’s recent work, I present a particularist account of moral competence and call attention to a lacuna in particularism: an account of education. For Dancy, reasoning requires attunement to a situation’s salient features. Dewey’s account of habit explains how features can exhibit salience without appeal to rules, and I look to habituation to outline the possibility of particularist education. Finally, though Dewey’s commitment that habituation occurs in traditions seems in tension with Dancy’s rejection of principles, I argue that this appeal is consistent with particularism. Thus, particularists like Dancy can strengthen the case for their view by situating it in a Deweyan framework.


Nate Jackson    
University of Akron
United States


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