Epicurus is one of the first social contract theorists, holding that justice is an agreement neither to harm nor be harmed. He also says that living justly is necessary and sufficient for living pleasantly, which is the Epicurean goal. Some say that there are two accounts of justice in Epicurus -- one as a personal virtue, the other as a virtue of institutions. I argue that the personal virtue derives from compliance with just social institutions, and so we need to (...) attribute only one account of justice to Epicurus. I show how this interpretation makes sense of claims about justice by Epicurus and his followers, including Hermarchus, Lucretius, and Diogenes of Oinoanda. (shrink)
This article is extracted from a forthcoming book, Natural Justice. It is a nontechnical introduction to the part of game theory immediately relevant to social contract theory. The latter part of the article reviews how concepts such as trust, responsibility, and authority can be seen as emergent phenomena in models that take formal account only of equilibria in indefinitely repeated games. Key Words: game theory equilibrium evolutionary stability reciprocity folk theorem trust altruism responsibility (...) authority. (shrink)
Contractualism/Contractarianism collects, for the first time, both major classical sources and central contemporary discussions of these important approaches to philosophical ethics. Edited and introduced by Stephen Darwall, these readings are essential for anyone interested in normative ethics.
This paper critically reviews Ken Binmoreâs non- utilitarian and game theoretic solution to the Arrow problem. Binmoreâs solution belongs to the same family as Rawlsâ maximin criterion and requires the use of Nash bargaining theory, empathetic preferences, and results in evolutionary game theory. Harsanyi has earlier presented a solution that relies on utilitarianism, which requires some exogenous valuation criterion and is therefore incompatible with liberalism. Binmoreâs rigorous demonstration of the maximin principle for the first time presents a real alternative to (...) a utilitarian solution. (shrink)
Brian Skyrms has argued that the evolution of the social contract may be explained using the tools of evolutionary game theory. I show in the first half of this paper that the evolutionary game-theoretic models are often highly sensitive to the specific processes that they are intended to simulate. This sensitivity represents an important robustness failure that complicates Skyrms's project. But I go on to make the positive proposal that we may none the less obtain robust results by simulating the (...) population structures that existed among our evolutionary ancestors. It is by extending the evolutionary models in this way that we should pursue the project of explaining the evolution of the social contract. (shrink)
Human beings are peculiar. In laboratory experiments, they often cooperate in one-shot prisoners’ dilemmas, they frequently offer 1/2 and reject low offers in the ultimatum game, and they often bid 1/2 in the game of divide-the-cake All these behaviors are puzzling from the point of view of game theory. The first two are irrational, if utility is measured in a certain way.1 The last isn’t positively irrational, but it is no more rational than other possible actions, since there are infinitely (...) many other Nash equilibria besides the one in which both players bid 1/2. At the same time, these behaviors seem to indicate that people are sometimes inclined to be cooperative, fair, and just. In his stimulating new book, Brian Skyrms sets himself the task of showing why these inclinations evolved, or how they might have evolved, under the pressure of natural selection. The goal is not to justify our ethical intuitions, but to explain why we have them.2.. (shrink)
I argue that social-contract theory cannot succeed because reasonable people may always disagree, and that social-contract theory is irrelevant to the problem of the legitimacy of a form of government or of a system of moral rules. I note the weakness of the appeal to implicit agreement, the conflation of legitimacy with stability, the undesirability of “public justification” and the apparent blindness to the evolutionary critical-rationalist approach of Hayek and Popper. I employ that approach to sketch answers to the theoretical, (...) historical and practical questions about the legitimacy of government or of systems of moral rules. (shrink)
The conception of social relationships as contractual lies at the core of our ideology. Indeed, that core is constituted by the intersection of this conception with the correlative conceptions of human activity as appropriate and of rationality as utility-maximizing. My concern is to clarify this thesis and to enhance its descriptive plausibility as a characterization of our ideology, but to undermine its normative plausibility as ideologically effective.
Contractarianism in some form has been at the center of recent debates in moral and political philosophy. Jean Hampton was one of the most gifted philosophers involved in these debates and provided both important criticisms of prominent contractarian theories plus powerful defenses and applications of the core ideas of contractarianism. In these essays, she brought her distinctive approach, animated by concern for the intrinsic worth of persons, to bear on topics such as guilt, punishment, self-respect, family relations, and the maintenance (...) and justification of the state. Edited by Daniel Farnham, this collection is an essential contribution to understanding the problems and prospectus of contractarianism in moral, legal and political philosophy. (shrink)
This major study of Hobbes's political philosophy draws on recent developments in game and decision theory to explore whether the thrust of the argument in Leviathan, that it is in the interests of the people to create a ruler with absolute power, can be shown to be cogent. Professor Hampton has written a book of vital importance to political philosophers, political and social scientists, and intellectual historians.
There is an idea, extremely common among social contract theorists, that the primary function of social institutions is to secure some form of cooperative benefit. If individuals simply seek to satisfy their own preferences in a narrowly instrumental fashion, they will find themselves embroiled in collective action problems – interactions with an outcome that is worse for everyone involved than some other possible outcome. Thus they have reason to accept some form of constraint over their conduct, in order to achieve (...) this superior, but out-of-equilibrium outcome. A social institution can be defined as a set of norms that codify these constraints.1 Simplifying somewhat, one can then say that social institutions exist in order to secure gains in Pareto-efficiency. (shrink)
Abstract: Rawls? arguments in defence of his claim to derive principles of morality and justice from his hypothetical? original position? are critically examined and found to be unconvincing. In particular, it is pointed out that a theory of justice cannot be at one and the same time (a) descriptive?explanatory and therefore tested against people's actual judgments in particular cases, and (b) prescriptive?justificatory and therefore providing rationally derived principles against which people's actual judgments are tested for correctness. Rawls? attempt to conflate (...) these two types of theory is necessarily doomed. (shrink)
At the basis of modern natural law theories, the concept of the suum, or what belongs to the person (in Latin, his, her, its, their own), has received little scholarly attention despite its importance both in explaining and justifying not only the genealogy of property, but also that of morality and war.1 In this paper I examine Hugo Grotius's what it is, what things it includes, what rights it gives rise to and how it is extended in the transition from (...) the state of nature to civil society. I then briefly point out how bringing this concept back to the fore could help to illuminate the current discussion on the foundations of basic human rights, and to evaluate cases where these seem to clash with property rights. (shrink)
In their attempt to provide a reason to be moral, contractarians such as David Gauthier are concerned with situations allowing a group of agents the chance of mutual benefit, so long as at least some of them are prepared to constrain their maximising behaviour. But what justifies this constraint? Gauthier argues that it could be rational (because maximising) to intend to constrain one's behaviour, and in certain circumstances to act on this intention. The purpose of this paper is to examine (...) the conditions under which it is rational to form, and to act on, intentions. I introduce and examine in detail what Gauthier has to say on these issues, argue that it suffers from various problems, and propose an alternative account which I claim avoids them. (shrink)
To show it is sometimes rational to cooperate in the Prisoner's Dilemma, David Gauthier has claimed that if it is rational to form an intention then it is sometimes rational act on it. However, the Paradox of Deterrence and the Toxin Puzzle seem to put this general type of claim into doubt. For even if it is rational to form a deterrent intention, it is not rational act on it (if it is not successful); and even if it is rational (...) to form an intention to drink a toxin, it is not rational to act on it (come the time for drinking). This article employs an extended version of Michael Bratman's theory of intention to show how to argue systematically that it can be rational to act on rationally formed cooperative intentions, while not being committed to the rationality of apocalyptic retaliation, or pointless toxin drinking. (shrink)
David Gauthier has argued that, under certain conditions, cooperation in the Prisoner's Dilemma is rational. A crucial principle he employs in this argument, however, also implies the pointless retaliation after a failed threat could also be rational. In this paper, I introduce one possible reformulation of the Cooperation Argument, by replacing its second premise with a principle connecting rationally adopted intentions, rational action, and rational reconsideration, and a specific theory of rational reconsideration. I then argue that this reformulated Cooperation Argument (...) is not susceptible to any form of the Deterrence Objection, and conclude that the Deterrence Objection may be circumvented if proper attention is paid to the role of rational reconsideration. (shrink)
Harsanyi defends utilitarianism by means of an axiomatic proof and by what he calls the 'equiprobability model'. Both justifications of utilitarianism aim to show that utilitarian ethics can be derived from Bayesian rationality and some weak moral constraints on the reasoning of rational agents. I argue that, from the perspective of Bayesian agents, one of these constraints, the impersonality constraint, is not weak at all if its meaning is made precise, and that generally, it even contradicts individual rational agency. Without (...) the impersonality constraint, Harsanyi's two justifications of utilitarianism on the grounds of Bayesian rationality fail. As an alternative, I develop a contractarian framework that is compatible with individual rational agency and Harsanyi's central assumptions, and that allows the derivation of moral conclusions on the grounds of Bayesian rationality. The developed framework offers a novel justification of contractarian ethics and may best be described as a combined version of Harsanyi's equiprobability model and Rawls's original position. (shrink)
In this article, I derive a weak version of Kant's categorical imperative within an informal game-theoretic framework. More specifically, I argue that Hobbesian agents would choose what I call the weak principle of universalization, if they had to decide on a rule of conflict resolution in an idealized but empirically defensible hypothetical decision situation. The discussion clarifies (i) the rationality requirements imposed on agents, (ii) the empirical conditions assumed to warrant the conclusion, and (iii) the political institutions that are necessary (...) to implement the derived principle. The analysis demonstrates the moral significance of the weak principle of universalization and its epistemic advantage over the categorical imperative. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that if one closely follows Hobbes' line of reasoning in Leviathan, in particular his distinction between the second and the third law of nature, and the logic of his contractarian theory, then Hobbes' state of nature is best translated into the language of game theory by an assurance game, and not by a one-shot or iterated prisoner's dilemma game, nor by an assurance dilemma game. Further, I support Hobbes' conclusion that the sovereign must always punish (...) the Foole, and even exclude her from the cooperative framework or take her life, if she defects once society is established, which is best expressed in the language of game theory by a grim strategy. That is, compared to existing game-theoretic interpretations of Hobbes, I argue that the sovereign plays a grim strategy with the citizens once society is established, and not the individuals with one another in the state of nature. (shrink)