Scanlon, permissions, and redundancy: response to McNaughton and Rawling

Michael Ridge
University of Edinburgh
According to one formulation of Scanlon ’s contractualist principle, certain acts are wrong if they are permitted by principles that are reasonably rejectable because they permit such acts. According to the redundancy objection, if a principle is reasonably rejectable because it permits actions which have feature F, such actions are wrong simply in virtue of having F and not because their having F makes principles permitting them reasonably rejectable. Consequently Scanlon ’s contractualist principle adds nothing to the reasons we have not to act wrongly and is redundant. In ‘ Scanlon ’s contractualism and the redundancy objection’ I argued that the redundancy objection is based upon the false assumption that Scanlon regards his contractualist principle as a ground of moral wrongness – that is, as telling us what makes certain acts wrong. I pointed out that he does not regard his principle in this way, but regards it as telling us what moral wrongness is. So the redundancy objection is based on a mistake. Nonetheless, Scanlon is still vulnerable to a version of this objection because he regards the moral wrongness of j ing as a reason not to j. Given that he identifies the fact that j ing is wrong with the fact that j ing is permitted by a reasonably rejectable principle, he is committed to the view that his contractualist principle gives us a reason not to j. His critics can thus still insist that the only reason we have not to do such acts is provided.
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