The Reasonable and the Moral

Social Theory and Practice 28 (2):277-301 (2002)
Scanlon takes contractualism to be more than a mere device of representation. Whereas many others deem the imaginary consensus among a group of parties simply to indicate the features making an act wrong, Scanlon takes the hypothetical agreement to constitute the property of wrongness itself. In this article, I consider whether this development is justified. My thesis is that it is not. I defend this thesis by critically exploring the explanatory power of Scanlon's contractualism, considering the degree to which it explains some firm intuitions about wrongness, particularly about how to treat animals. I develop an alternative account of the property in virtue of which actions are wrong, an account that retains the notion of unreasonableness but rejects the contractualist framework. Specifically, I maintain (roughly) that the property of treating another unreasonably better explains what makes an act wrong than does the property of it being prohibited by principles that contractors with an ideal motivation could not reasonably reject.
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DOI 10.5840/soctheorpract200228211
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