There has been controversy between particularism and generalism in metaethics in general and bioethics in particular. Particularists (e.g. contextualists) attempt to solve moral problems by firstly working with particular cases in all of their contextual details and then by applying these results to other similar cases, whereas generalists (principled ethicists) try to apply the general normative principles to particular cases. The former approach can be viewed as a "bottom-up" and the latter "top-down" way. As indicated by many moral philosophers, both of these approaches have shortcomings. Principled ethics have been challenged for their impotence in providing guidance in a moral decision. The challenge is in twofold: Firstly, there is scepticism that one can reach a moral judgment by reasoning deductively from general ethical principles; secondly, these theories are insensitive to and thus do not give due weight to the contextual variabilities in a specific situation. By contrast, contextualism emphasizes the relative importance of inductive method in moral reasoning. However, how to resolve moral issues by employing the inductive method remains a problem. Therefore, while it accuses principled ethics of its inability to guide moral decision, contextualism itself cannot provide any guidance.
With respect to the rival views of principled ethics and contextualism, R.M. Hare thinks that both theories have grasped the truth, but only part of it. For instance, contextualism has caught hold of an important truth, that one has to judge each situation on its own merit. But if contextualism persists in asserting that in morals one cannot appeal to general principles, then it is mistaken. This is a mistaken view in that it ignores another obvious truth that some situations are similar in some morally relevant respects, and also in that it holds that these two truths are incompatible. Hare conceives that this mistake arises from confusing the concepts of universality and generality and also from failing to make the distinction between the two levels of moral thinking. By introducing the intuitive level and critical level of moral thinking, Hare argues that the two kinds of metaethical theories are not in real conflict. Contrarily, they both play important roles in our moral thinking, though at different levels. In this paper, I am going to examine to what extent, if ever, Hare's attempt is successful, and furthermore, what are the steps that should be taken to remedy the deficiency, if any. Finally, I try to show that the ideas of "jing" and "quan" in Confucian ethics operate in the two levels of moral thinking in Hare's structure, and hope that these two ideas may help to solve the issue discussed in this paper.