Personal and Societal Obligations: Suggested Answers 

 

In the first set, #3 is particularist; the other three are universalist because:

1 - for particularists,  personal feelings would have to be taken into account

2 - for particularists, deals change when circumstances change 

4 - for particularists, the law depends on who you are, etc.

In the second set, #1 is universalist; the other three are particularist because:

2 - this is particularist dogma

3 - particularists are subjective; universalists are objective

4 - universalist logic is of the head

In the third set, #1 is particularist; the other three are universalist because:

2 - particularists avoid consistency because things are relative

3 - particularist logic is of the heart

4 - particularists live by exceptions; there are no absolutes

In the fourth set, #2 is universalist; the other three are particularist because:

1 -  friends can always be trusted (and you donít do business with strangers anyway)

3 - particularist logic says the bond is more important than the facts of the case

4 - collectivists have the same in-group/out-group mentality as particularists do

In the fifth set, #4 is universalist; the other three are particularist because:

1 - this is particularist dogma, no absolutes

2 - particularists always take circumstances into account

3 - relationships, the personal side of things, are more important than cost, etc.

 

 

DISCUSSION

  The categories of universalism and particularism are a kind of shorthand. They are useful to discuss the ways in which individuals (and whole societies) emphasize one or the other approach. One thing that should be clear is that such choices are often patterned, that is, there are a myriad of behaviors that are derived from a simple principal. Just as it is likely that you were able to spot the single phrase in the exercise that did not fit with the others, it is also likely that you tended to agree or disagree with the different statements. 

If you are a strong universalist you would probably agree with the statement, "A deal is a deal, whatever happens" and disagree with the statement, "The logic of the heart is what counts." If you are a strong particularist you would probably agree with the statement, "Situational ethics is the norm" and disagree with the statement, "You donít compromise on principles." In other words, most individuals doing this exercise will have a preference for one or the other viewpoints. It is good to know which side you favor because, depending upon where you are intending to study, your "natural" inclination may be the opposite of the local prevailing norms. 

In the following section (1.4.3), you can take a short quiz that will give you an indication of which orientation you prefer.

 

 


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