Contractarianism and the assumption of mutual unconcern

Philosophical Studies 56 (2):187 - 192 (1989)
Abstract
A contractarian moral theory states that an action (practice, social structure, etc.) is morally permissible if and only if it (or rules to which if conforms) would be agreed to by the members of society under certain circumstances. What people will agree to depends on what their desires are like. Most contractarian theories - for example those of Rawls (1971) and Gauthier (1986) - specify that parties to the agreement are mutually unconcerned (take no interest in each other's interests). Contractarian theorists, do not, of course, believe that this is true of real people, but they insist (with Kant) that the basic moral constraints on conduct (if there are any) apply independently of whether individuals care about each other. I shall here argue against the appropriateness of the assumption of mutual unconcern for contractarian theories, such as Gauthier's, that are supposed to ground morality solely in rationality.
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