Contractualism, Person-Affecting Wrongness and the Non-identity Problem

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (1):103-119 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


A number of theorists have argued that Scanlon's contractualist theory both "gets around" and "solves" the non-identity problem. They argue that it gets around the problem because hypothetical deliberation on general moral principles excludes the considerations that lead to the problem. They argue that it solves the problem because violating a contractualist moral principle in one's treatment of another wrongs that particular other, grounding a person-affecting moral claim. In this paper, I agree with the first claim but note that all it shows is that the act is impersonally wrong. I then dispute the second claim. On Scanlon's contractualist view, one wrongs a particular other if one treats the other in a way that is unjustifiable to that other on reasons she could not reasonably reject. We should think of person-affecting wronging in terms of the reasons had by the actual agent and the actual person affected by the agent's action. In non-identity cases, interpersonal justifiability is therefore shaped both by the reason to reject the treatment provided by the bad suffered and the reason to affirm the treatment provided by the goods had as a result of existing. I argue it would be reasonable for the actual person to find the treatment justifiable, and so I conclude that Scanlon's contractualist metaethics does not provide a narrow person-affecting solution to the non-identity problem on its own terms. I conclude that the two claims represent a tension within Scanlon's contractualist theory itself.

Similar books and articles

Non-Identity for Non-Humans.Duncan Purves & Benjamin Hale - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (5):1165-1185.
Contractualism and the Conditional Fallacy.Jussi Suikkanen - 2014 - Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 4:113-137.
Contractualism and the Non-Identity Problem.Elizabeth Finneron-Burns - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (5):1151-1163.
Relational Contractualism and Future Persons.Michael Gibb - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (2):135-160.
Identifying and Dissolving the Non-Identity Problem.Rivka Weinberg - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 137 (1):3-18.
Parfit and Ordinary Person-Affecting Beneficence.Daniel Charles Wigley - 1998 - Dissertation, University of South Florida


Added to PP

502 (#35,432)

6 months
110 (#33,503)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Corey Katz
Saint Louis University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

View all 42 references / Add more references