Morals From Rationality Alone? Some Doubts

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 19 (3):248-273 (2020)

Abstract

Contractarians aim to derive moral principles from the dictates of instrumental rationality alone. But it is well-known that contractarian moral theories struggle to identify normative principles that are both uniquely rational and morally compelling. Michael Moehler's recent book, *Minimal Morality* seeks to avoid these difficulties by developing a novel "two-level" social contract theory, which restricts the scope of contractarian morality to cases of deep and persistent moral disagreement. Yet Moehler remains ambitious, arguing that a restricted version of Kant's categorical imperative is a uniquely rational principle of conflict resolution. We develop a formal model of Moehler's informal game-theoretic argument, which reconstructs a valid argument for Moehler's conclusion. This model, in turn, enables us to expose how a successful argument for Moehler's contractarian principle rests on assumptions that can only be justified by subtle yet significant departures from the standard conception of rationality. We thus extend our understanding of familiar contractarian difficulties by showing how they arise even if we restrict the scope of contractarian morality to a domain where its application seems both promising and necessary. We show that the problem lies not in contractarians' immodest ambitions but in the modest resources rationality can offer to satisfy them.

Download options

PhilArchive

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2020-01-27

Downloads
342 (#31,453)

6 months
44 (#19,327)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

J. P. Messina
University of California, San Diego
David Wiens
University of California, San Diego

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Bargaining and the Impartiality of the Social Contract.Johanna Thoma - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (12):3335-3355.
Rational Cooperation and the Nash Bargaining Solution.Michael Moehler - 2015 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (3):577-594.
Contractarianism.Michael Moehler - 2020 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Orthodox Rational Choice Contractarianism: Before and After Gauthier.Michael Moehler - 2016 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 15 (2):113-131.
The Evolution of Distributive Justice.Jason Mckenzie Alexander - 2000 - Dissertation, University of California, Irvine
Contemporary Hobbesian Contractarianism.Jody Steven Kraus - 1987 - Dissertation, The University of Arizona
Rawls' Avowed Error in Rational Contractarianism.Jung Soon Park - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 10:325-340.