Jonathan Dancy

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Jonathan Dancy
Jonathan Dancy, Paris 2013.JPG
Born (1946-05-08) 8 May 1946 (age 69)
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
Main interests
Moral theory
Notable ideas
Moral particularism

Jonathan Peter Dancy (born 8 May 1946) is a British philosopher, who has worked on epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of action. He is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Reading and Professor of Philosophy at University of Texas at Austin.


Dancy was educated at Winchester College and Corpus Christi College, Oxford.[1] After graduating he served as a lecturer at Pembroke College, Oxford for a year. In 1971 he became a lecturer at Keele University, becoming professor there in 1991.[1] After having worked on problems of epistemology, and more particularly on the nature of perception (argument from illusion), he emerged as the leading proponent in ethics of moral particularism, the idea that all moral reasons are particular and context-sensitive, rather than general. He also defends what he calls the holism of reasons, namely the idea that a consideration that is a reason for acting in a certain way in one case may not be a reason for acting in that way, or even a reason for not acting in that way, in other cases. In this sense, reasons are context-dependent. Dancy argues that the holism of reasons provides a major support for the main claim of his particularism, i.e., that there are no moral principles but that morality can get on perfectly well without them.[citation needed] Dancy edited some of George Berkeley writings[2] and dedicated a book to the Anglo-Irish thinker.[2]

In 1973 he married Sarah Birley; they have three children, including the actor and model Hugh Dancy. After being mentioned by his daughter-in-law, American actress Claire Danes, during an appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Dancy appeared as a guest on the program on 1 April 2010.



  • "On Moral Properties", Mind, 1981, XC, pp. 367–385.
  • “Ethical Particularism and Morally Relevant Properties.” Mind, n.s.; 92, 368 (Oct., 1983): 530 – 547.
  • “The Role of Imaginary Cases in Ethics.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 66 (1985): 141 – 153.
  • “An Ethic of Prima Facie Duties.” In A Companion to Ethics, ed. Peter Singer. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1991. 219 – 229.
  • “Can a Particularist Learn the Difference Between Right and Wrong?” In The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, vol. 1, ed. K. Brinkmann. Bowling Green, OH: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1999. 59 – 72.
  • “The Particularist’s Progress.” In Moral Particularism, ed. Brad Hooker and Margaret Olivia Little. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000. 130 – 156.
  • "Moral Particularism" in the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy at

Books (author)[edit]

  • An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology, Oxford: Blackwell, 1985.
  • Berkeley: An Introduction, Oxford: Blackwell, 1987.
  • Moral Reasons, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1993.
  • Practical Reality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Ethics Without Principles. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004.

Books (editor)[edit]

  • Perceptual Knowledge, Oxford: OUP, 1988.
  • Reading Parfit, Oxford : Blackwell,1997.
  • Normativity (Ratio conference 1998) Oxford : Blackwell, 2000.

Personal life[edit]

Dancy was educated at Winchester College, where he was Head Boy and played cricket for the school, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he obtained a double first in classics (1965-7:Classical Honour Moderations: First Class Honours; 1967-9: Literae Humaniores: First Class Honours, BA). He and his wife Sarah have three children, the actor Hugh Dancy, husband of actress Claire Danes, Jack Dancy who runs a travel company, Trufflepig Travel,[3] and Kate Redman[4] who works for UNESCO.

External links[edit]