Morals by Agreement

Oxford University Press (1986)
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Abstract

Is morality rational? In this book Gauthier argues that moral principles are principles of rational choice. He proposes a principle whereby choice is made on an agreed basis of cooperation, rather than according to what would give an individual the greatest expectation of value. He shows that such a principle not only ensures mutual benefit and fairness, thus satisfying the standards of morality, but also that each person may actually expect greater utility by adhering to morality, even though the choice did not have that end primarily in view. In resolving what may appear to be a paradox, the author establishes morals on the firm foundation of reason. Gauthier's argument includes an account of value, linking it to preference and utility; a discussion of the curcumstances in which morality is unnecessary; and an application of morals by agreement to relations between peoples at different levels of development and different generations. Finally, he reflects on the assumptions about individuality and community made by his account of rationality and morality.

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