The Nature of moral duties Scanlon's contractualist account of 'what we owe to each other'

of thesis entitled The Nature of Moral Duties-Scanlon's Contractualist Account of 'what we owe to each other' submitted by Simon C. Y. Kwong for the degree of Master of Philosophy at the University ofHK in August 2003 This thesis aims at examining a contractualist account of our moral duties towards other individuals, which was proposed by Thomas Scanlon in his book Mat We Owe to Each Other. Traditionally, utilitarianism occupies a dominant position in moral and political philosophy, and contractualism as a non-consequentialist stream of theories does not receive much attention before John Rawls' s A Theory of Justice was published. Even within the family of contract theories, most of the attentions have been devoted to 'justice' but not 'moral duties'.1 Scanlon' s contractualist account of 'what we owe to each other' therefore has two distinctive features: first, it is an account of 'moral duties' towards other individuals but not an account of justice or other evaluative focal points; second, it offers a contractualist but not consequentialist foundation for 'what we owe to each other'. My thesis has a dual purpose: first, to examine the nature of our moral duties under this conception of 'what we owe to each other' ; and second, to argue that contractualism does represent a genuine and appealing rival to utilitarianism and other forms of consequentialism as a foundational theory. The nature of our moral duties to other individuals is examined in terms of its normative content, motivational basis, scope and its implications on moral status, basing 1 Apart from Rawls, David Gauthier, for example, also offers a contractarian theory of justice in his Morals by Agreement i on a contractualist foundation. Chapter 1 will be a general discussion of social contract theories. Staring with Shelly Kagan' s framework in analyzing normative theories, I will examine the role of contract theories in normative ethics. After a summary of the characteristics of different contract theories, I will examine some of the most pressing critiques of contract theories and try to answer them. Chapter 2 will discuss the normative content of 'what we owe to each other'. Some of the main ideas in Scanlon' s account like 'principles' and 'reasonable rejection' will be explicated to pave the way for further discussions in later Chapters. Chapter 3 will be a direct comparison between contractualism and consequentialism. I will discuss the main divergence between contractualism and consequentialism in first-order moral questions. I will also argue how contractualism, as a non-aggregative and non-teleological theory, serves as a better foundation than consequentialism for our moral duties towards others. Chapter 4 will turn to the question of moral motivation. I will examine why we should respect our moral duties to others in terms of why we should take the considerations of 'what we owe to each other' seriously. In Chapter 5, I will explain how the normative content of contractualism and contractualist moral motivation are unified by the idea of mutual justifiability to others. They together form a single subject matter and constitute a unified domain of 'what we owe to each other' within the broader concept of 'morality'. I will then examine the scope of this particular domain, with special emphasis on the problem of moral status. 11
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