Orthodox Rational Choice Contractarianism: Before and After Gauthier

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 15 (2):113-131 (2016)
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In a recent article, Gauthier rejects orthodox rational choice contractarianism in favor of a revisionist approach to the social contract that, according to him, justifies his principle of maximin proportionate gain as a principle of distributive justice. I agree with Gauthier that his principle of maximin proportionate gain cannot be justified by orthodox rational choice contractarianism. I argue, however, that orthodox rational choice contractarianism, before and after Gauthier, is still a viable approach to the social contract, although the scope of this approach is limited. Orthodox rational choice contractarianism can be applied fruitfully to moral philosophy only in situations of deep moral pluralism in which moral reasoning is reduced to instrumental reasoning, because the members of society do not share, as assumed by traditional moral theories, a consensus on moral ideals as traditionally conceived as a starting point for the derivation of moral rules but only an overarching end that they aim to reach. If orthodox rational choice contractarianism is applied adequately, then it offers a viable approach to the social contract that, in contrast to Gauthier’s theory, justifies a rival principle for distributive conflicts that is valid for deeply morally pluralistic societies.



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Michael Moehler
Virginia Tech

Citations of this work

Instrumentalism in the Social and Moral Sciences.Michael Moehler - forthcoming - Philosophy of the Social Sciences.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Morals by agreement.David P. Gauthier - 1986 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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