Michael White’s particularist ethics in a biological age* — Philippa Byers


This paper offers a reading of Michael White’s ethics of narrative therapy as a form of ethical particularism that seeks particularity rather than generalities or rules of thought, speech, behaviour or action. The paper draws on insights from British novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch, and others, to characterise an approach to practice which does not privilege theory (which reaches in the
direction of generality) but is a restrained form of moral attention and receptivity to discovery in the words, phrases, stories and story fragments that are offered in therapeutic conversations. The paper suggests that a hallmark of the ethics of practice that Michael White offered in his writing is that personal and philosophical questions and interpretations are left open for discovery. For this reason, the paper suggests caution about introducing terms and concepts from brain and neurological sciences, and the implicit philosophical assumptions that come with that introduction, into narrative therapy and practice.