Rationality Is Not Fair

Analysis 55 (4):252 - 260 (1995)
Abstract
Gauthier argues in Morals by Agreement that morality is derivable from rationality. A crucial premise is that rational bargaining is procedurally fair. Gauthier defends this claim by trying to show that his principle of rational bargaining determines a fair distribution of the overall return from cooperation, including the cooperative surplus. He supports this point in part by the argument from agreement: since (1) procedurally fair principles proportion return to contribution, and since (2) every bargainer has the power to agree in equal measure, and since (3) the agreement component of the bargainer’s contribution is what makes the cooperative surplus available, it follows (4) that fairness requires a distributive principle that divides the cooperative surplus equally among the bargainers. I argue that the falsity of (3) not only renders the argument unsound, it refutes the conclusion. Hence Gauthier should think that rational bargaining is not procedurally fair and that his own derivation of morality from rationality is unsound
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