The paper sheds light on the way the motif of universalism has been articulated in some philosophical conceptions. While within the Kantian tradition universalism is related to formalism, material value ethics aims at establishing contextual („material“) a priori, which opens up a hierarchic order already on emotional level. As for this order, however, the representatives of the stream disagreed. Therefore, in the last three decades of the 20th century we witnessed an attempt at a new formal and universalistic conception of the grounds of ethics, especially in the discursive ethics of J. Habermas. The contextual questions concerning the meanings of values were also reformulated in various conceptions of ecological ethics. In the latter the nature, and living „non-human“ creatures were included into the sphere of the ethically and morally relevant. The conception of discursive ethics is considered as a reasonably grounded one. In the controversy between biocentrism and anthropocentrism it plays the role of „methodological“ and „purified“ anthropocentrism.