In A Theory of Justice, Rawls attempts to ground intergenerational justice by "virtual representation" through a thickening of the veil of ignorance. Contractors don't know to what generation they belong. This approach is flawed and will not result in the just savings principle Rawls hopes to justify. The project of grounding intergenerational duties on a social contractarian foundation is misconceived. Non-overlapping generations do not stand in relation to one another that is central to the contractarian approach.
Several authors, including Thomas Nagel and David Gauthier, have defended the view that reasons of self-interest (prudential reasons) are rationally binding. That is, there is always a reason, bearing on the rational advisability, based on one's self-interest and, as a result, a person may act irrationally by knowingly acting against such reasons regardless of the person's desires or values. Both Nagel and Gauthier argue from the rationally mandatory nature of prudential reasons to the conclusion that moral reasons can be rationally (...) mandatory, challenging the neo-Humean position that practical reasons that bear on an agent's rationality are essentially grounded on the agent's subjective, contingent, conative states. I argue, pace Nagel and Gauthier, that prudential reasons are not rationally mandatory--that the rational requirement to act in one's own interest, when it exists, is, as the neo-Humean insists, grounded on one's subjective, contingent, conative states. Prudential reasons are not reasons for every (conceivable) agent--not in the sense that bears on the rational advisability of action. (shrink)
In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls provides several arguments contractors in the original position using maximin reasoning, which leads directly to the difference principle. These arguments are inadequate to support the claim that maximin reasoning is the uniquely rational approach to choice in the original position.
In his book, The Grounds of Moral Judgment, Russell Grice argues for a thesis he calls "the contract ground thesis," which connects the interest of members of a group in making a contract to the existence of an obligation and reason to abide by that contract. This thesis has been challenged by Jesse Kalin and subsequently defended by Grice. We show that Grice's defense fails--the contract ground thesis is without justification.