Volume 29, Issue 1, January 2013
Thick Concepts and Context Dependence
In this paper I develop my account of moral particularism, focussing on the nature of thick moral concepts. My aim is to show how the particularist can consistently uphold an non-reductive cognitivist ‘dual role’ view of thick moral concepts, even though she holds that the qualities ascribed by such concepts can vary in their moral relevance – so that to judge that something is generous or an act of integrity need not entail that the object of evaluative appraisal is good to some extent. A novel particularist account of thick concepts is proposed, in response to recent work on variance holism. The particularist rejects the holist’s attempt to preserve the idea that thick concepts are evaluative concepts by postulating a special semantic content, a contextually variable evaluative valence, as theoretically unmotivated and conceptually confused. Instead it is argued that the thick concepts have determinable evaluative content in situ only.