Contractualism has a venerable history and considerable appeal. Yet as an account of the foundations or ultimate grounds of morality it has been thought by many philosophers to be subject to fatal objections. This book argues otherwise. It begins by detailing and diagnosing the shortcomings of the main existing models of contractualism, “Hobbesian” contractualism (or contractarianism) and “Kantian” contractualism. It then proposes a novel, "deliberative" model, based on an interpersonal, deliberative conception of practical reason. It argues (...) that the deliberative model of contractualism represents an attractive alternative to its more familiar rivals and that it has the resources to offer a more compelling account of morality’s foundations, one that can do justice to the twin demands of moral accuracy and explanatory adequacy. (shrink)
Contractualism is one of the most promising ‘centers of gravity’ in business ethics. In this guest editorial we provide a concise roadmap to the field, sketching contractualism’s historic and disciplinary antecedents, the basic argumentative structure of the contract model, and its boundary conditions. We also sketch two main dimensions along which contributions to the contractualist tradition can be positioned. The first dimension entails positive versus normative theorizing – does a given contribution analyze the world as it is or (...) how it ought to be? The second dimension involves four different levels of analysis that are commonly employed in contractualist business ethics: the nano, micro, meso, and macro levels. We then proceed to position the articles comprising this special issue along these two dimensions. (shrink)
This paper examines the efforts of contractualists to develop an alternative to aggregation to govern our duty not to harm (duty to rescue) others. I conclude that many of the moral principles articulated in the literature seem to reduce to aggregation by a different name. Those that do not are viable only as long as they are limited to a handful of oddball cases at the margins of social life. If extended to run-of-the-mill conduct that accounts for virtually all unintended (...) (in the sense of undesired) harm to others—noncriminal activities that impose some risk of harm on others—they would rule out all action. Moreover, because such conduct poses an irreducible conflict between freedom of action and freedom from expected harm, it can be regulated only by principles that accept the necessity of making precisely the sorts of interpersonal trade-offs that contractualism is foundationally committed to reject: trade-offs in which the numbers count, such that a risk of serious harm to one person can be justified by small benefits to the many. (shrink)
The article investigates the resources of contractualist moral theory to make sense of the ethics of risk imposition. In some ways, contractualism seems well placed to explain how it can be reasonable to accept exposure to risk of harms whose direct imposition would not be acceptable. However, there are difficulties getting clear about what directness comes to here, especially given the difficulty of adequately motivating traditional views that assign ethical significance to what the agent intends as opposed to merely (...) foreseeing. The article considers two principles which might help the contractualist: the Redistribution Principle, which, while attractive, is perhaps somewhat too restrictive, and the Aim Consistency Principle, which grants ethical significance to the aims with which our actions are in principle consistent whatever our actual intentions may be. The article also considers the relative significance of ex ante and ex post perspectives from which to evaluate actions and principles. Key Words: contractualism • Doctrine of Double Effect • ethics • intention • justice • risk • T.M. Scanlon • utilitarianism. (shrink)
This article examines the way that for-profit businesses should take into account the interests of the citizens in the liberal democratic societies in which they operate. I will show how a contractualist version of stakeholder theory identifies the relevant moral interests of both shareholders and citizen stakeholders, and provides a method for giving their interests appropriate consideration. These include (1) the interests that individuals have with respect to private property, (2) the interests citizens have in receiving equitable consideration in the (...) political process, and (3) citizens' interests which give them the collective right to determine the legal and economic structure of their societies. Using this contractualist analysis, I argue that corporations should consciously take into account the interests of citizen stakeholders when there is no other social mechanism for protecting their interests as citizens. (shrink)
Kant offers the following argument for the formula of humanity (FH): Each rational agent necessarily conceives of her own rational nature as an end in itself and does so on the same grounds as every other rational agent, so all rational agents must conceive of one another's rational nature as an end in itself. As it stands, the argument appears to be question-begging and fallacious. Drawing on resources from the formula of universal law (FUL) and Kant's claims about the primacy (...) of duties to oneself, I propose a contractualist reconstruction of this puzzling line of reasoning. (shrink)
Metaethics is often dominated by both realist views according to which moral claims are made true by either non-natural or natural properties and by non-cognitivist views according to which these claims express desire-like attitudes. It is sometimes suggested that constructivism is a fourth alternative, but it has remained opaque just how it differs from the other views. To solve this problem, this article first describes a clear constructivist theory based on Crispin Wright’s anti-realism. It then outlines an argumentative strategy that (...) can be used to argue against constructivist views about practical reasons. The rest of the article explains how the outlined constructivist metaethical framework, reasons, and contractualism in normative ethics can still be used to create a new viable metaethical constructivist position about right and wrong. (shrink)
In 1982, when T. M. Scanlon published “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” he noted that, despite the widespread attention to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, the appeal of contractualism as a moral theory had been under appreciated. In particular, the appeal of contractualism’s account of what he then called “moral motivation” had been under appreciated.1 It seems to me that, in the intervening quarter century, despite the widespread discussion of Scanlon’s work, the appeal of contractualism, in precisely this (...) regard, has still been under appreciated—even though Scanlon makes what he once called “moral motivation” central, throughout his work. My first aim, then, is to do my best to draw out and make vivid this appeal. I will do this by first considering the two questions that Scanlon thinks must be addressed by any moral theory, what he once called “the question of subject matter” and “the question of motivation.” I will spend some time first locating and explicating the second question, of motivation, and then displaying Scanlon’s answer to it—it is this answer which provides contractualism with its under-appreciated appeal. I will then return to the question of subject matter—which will, by that point, have been revealed as not wholly distinct from the question of motivation, as Scanlon understands it. But it is as an answer to this question that Scanlon’s theory is most often.. (shrink)
T. M. Scanlon’s contractualism is a meta-ethical theory that explains moral motivation and also provides a conception of how to carry out moral deliberation. It supports non-consequentialism – the theory that both consequences and deontological considerations are morally significant in moral deliberation. Regarding the issue of punishment, non-consequentialism allows us to take account of the need for deterrence as well as principles of fairness, justice, and even desert. Moreover, Scanlonian contractualism accounts for permissibility in terms of justifiability: An (...) act is permissible if and only if it can be justified to everyone affected by it. This contractualist thesis explains why it is always impermissible to frame an innocent person, why vicarious punishment is impermissible, and why there has to be a cap on sentences. Contractualism therefore allows us to take deterrence as a goal of punishment without the excess of utilitarianism. This paper further argue that the resulting view is superior to pure retributivism. Finally, it shows why legal excuses and mitigation can be justified in terms of the notion of negative desert. (For access to this paper: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/sJ2JBVXkztyFMGmxS7tS/full ) . (shrink)
This paper argues that T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism can provide a solution to the non-identity problem. It first argues that there is no reason not to include future people in the realm of those to whom we owe justification, but that merely possible people are not included. It then goes on to argue that a person could reasonably reject a principle that left them with a barely worth living life even though that principle caused them to exist, and that current (...) people could not justify creating people with barely worth living lives on the grounds that it caused those people to exist. (shrink)
Despite an impressive philosophical pedigree, contractualism (or contractarianism) has only been properly developed in two ways: by appeal to the idea of an instrumentally rational bargain or contract between self-interested individuals (Hobbesian contractualism) and by appeal to the idea of a substantively reasonable agreement among individuals who regard one another as free and equal persons warranting equal moral respect (Kantian contractualism). Both of these existing models of contractualism are susceptible to apparently devastating objections. In this article, (...) I outline a third, `deliberative' model of contractualism, which is based on the idea of a deliberatively rational agreement and which, I argue, represents a significant improvement on the Hobbesian and Kantian models in certain important respects. Key Words: contractualism • contractarianism • deliberation • deliberative rationality • Scanlon • Gauthier. (shrink)
This paper is a defence of T.M. Scanlon's contractualism - the view that an action is wrong if it is forbidden by the principles which no one could reasonably reject. Such theories have been argued to be redundant in two ways. They are claimed to assume antecedent moral facts to explain which principles could not be reasonably rejected, and the reasons they provide to follow the non-rejectable principles are said to be unnecessary given that we already have sufficient reasons (...) not to do the acts that are forbidden by those principles. In this paper, I try to argue that neither one of these claims is true. (shrink)
Most contractualist ethical theories have a subjunctivist structure. This means that they attempt to make sense of right and wrong in terms of a set of principles which would be accepted in some idealized, non-actual circumstances. This makes these views vulnerable to the so-called conditional fallacy objection. The moral principles that are appropriate for the idealized circumstances fail to give a correct account of what is right and wrong in the ordinary situations. This chapter uses two versions of contractualism (...) to illustrate this problem: Nicholas Southwood’s and a standard contractualist theory inspired by T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism. It then develops a version of Scanlon’s view that can avoid the problem. This solution is based on the idea that we also need to compare different inculcation elements of moral codes in the contractualist framework. This idea also provides a new solution to the problem of at what level of social acceptance should principles be compared. (shrink)
Climate change is ‘a complex problem raising issues across and between a large number of disciplines, including physical and life sciences, political science, economics, and psychology, to name just a few’ (Gardiner 2006: 397). It is also a moral problem. Therefore, in this chapter, I will consider what kind of a contribution an ethical theory called ‘contractualism’ can make to the climate change debates. This chapter first introduces contractualism. It then describes a simple climate change scenario. The third (...) section explains what kind of moral obligations we would have in that situation according to contractualism. Finally, the last section discusses some of the advantages and problems of the sketched view. These discussions should help us to better understand contractualism and illustrate how contractualism could perhaps enable us to come to grips with some of the more difficult moral aspects of climate change. (shrink)
The most prominent theories of rights, the Will Theory and the Interest Theory, notoriously fail to accommodate all and only rights-attributions that make sense to ordinary speakers. The Kind-Desire Theory, Leif Wenar’s recent contribution to the field, appears to fare better in this respect than any of its predecessors. The theory states that we attribute a right to an individual if she has a kind-based desire that a certain enforceable duty be fulfilled. A kind-based desire is a reason to want (...) something which one has simply in virtue of being a member of a certain kind. Rowan Cruft objects that this theory creates a puzzle about the relation between rights and respect. In particular, if rights are not grounded in aspects of the particular individuals whose rights they are, how can we sustain the intuitive notion that to violate a right is to disrespect the right-holder? I present a contractualist account of respect which reconciles the Kind-Desire Theory with the intuition that rights-violations are disrespectful. On this account, respect for a person is a matter of acknowledging her legitimate authority to make demands on the will and conduct of others. And I argue that kind-based desires authorize a person to make demands even if they do not correspond to that person’s well-being or other non-relational features. (shrink)
This paper explores the moral and legal status of the right to strike from a contractualist perspective, broadly construed. I argue that rather than attempting to ground the right to strike in the principle of association, as is commonly done in the ongoing legal debate, it ought to be understood as the assertion of a second-order moral right to self-determination within economic life. The controversy surrounding the right to strike thus reflects and depends upon a more basic question of the (...) legitimate scope of reason giving. I conclude that the right to strike, understood as an assertion of a right to self-determination, enjoys presumptive or pro tanto legitimacy apart from the merits or demerits of particular strike demands. (shrink)
Two generally recognized moral duties are to reciprocate benefits one has received from others and to compensate harms one has done to others. In this paper I want to show that it is not possible to give an adequate account of either duty – or at least one that corresponds to our actual practices – within a contractualist moral theory of the type developed by T. M. Scanlon (1982, 1998). This fact is interesting in its own right, as contractualism (...) is a leading contemporary contender among deontological moral theories, and the two duties I have mentioned are fairly standard ingredients of such theories. But it also serves to highlight a general problem with contractualism, at least in Scanlon’s version – namely its one-dimensional view of the keystone of any plausible deontological theory: the idea of respect for persons. (shrink)
_ Source: _Page Count 26 A moral theory should tell us something about our obligations to future persons. It is therefore sometimes objected that contractualist moral theories cannot give a satisfactory account of such obligations, as there is little to motivate a contract with persons who can offer us almost nothing in return. I will argue that more recent “relational” forms of contractualism escape these objections. These forms of contractualism do, however, remain vulnerable to Derek Parfit’s non-identity problem. (...) Recent attempts to resolve this problem have looked to the role “generic reasons” and “standpoints” play in contractualist theories. I argue that these views provide an important line of response in cases where the deliberating agent has limited information about the identities of those their actions will affect, but that the non-identity problem is not such a case. I conclude by considering some remaining options for the relational contractualist. (shrink)
In The Second Person Standpoint, Darwall charges that all value-oriented foundations for ethics make a category mistake. Calling it Strawson’s point, he argues these foundations explain moral authority, which concerns whether someone has standing to hold another accountable, in terms of a value, which essentially concerns what makes the world go best. However, whether it would be good for me to blame you simply asks a different question than whether I have standing to blame you. I defend a valueoriented foundation (...) for contractualism by identifying one way to overcome Strawson’s point. At bottom, Darwall’s objection relies on the assumption that all values are worldregarding. I argue that another class of values exists: second-personal values. Grounding morality in one of these values does not make the category mistake at the heart of Strawson’s point. In particular, I argue that grounding morality on one secondpersonal value, the ideal of acting justifiably towards others, better captures traditional contractualist ideals than Darwall’s formal foundation. (shrink)
Many of us think that perspective-taking is relevant to moral judgment. In this paper I claim that Scanlon’s contractualism provides an appealing and distinctive account of why this is so. Contractualism interprets our moral judgments as making claims about the reasons of individuals in various situations, reasons that we can only recognise by considering their perspectives. Contractualism thereby commits itself to the view that our capacity for moral judgment depends on our capacity for perspective-taking. I show that (...) neither utilitarianism nor Kantianism assign a similar significance to our capacity for perspective-taking. (shrink)
T.M. Scanlon (1998) proposes that promise breaking is wrong because it shows manipulative disregard for the expectations for future behavior created by promising. I argue that this account of promissory obligation is mistaken in it own right, as well as being at odds with Scanlon's contractualism. I begin by placing Scanlon's account of promising within a tradition that treats the creation of expectations in promise recipients as central to promissory obligation. However, a counterexample to Scanlon's account, his case of (...) the "Profligate Pal," will show that this view of promissory obligation, which I call the Expectations View, is incorrect. In its place, I propose an account of promissory obligation I call Promising as Accountability, according to which promising is a way of making oneself accountable to others for a future act. Not only is Promising as Accountability a more defensible approach to promissory obligation, it also better fits with certain general features of Scanlon's contractualism. (shrink)
In On What Matters Derek Parfit advocates the Kantian Contractualist Formula as one of three supreme moral principles. In important cases, this formula entails that it is wrong for an agent to act in a way that would be partially best. In contrast, Parfit’s wide value-based objective view of reasons entails that the agent often have sufficient reasons to perform such acts. It seems then that agents might have sufficient reasons to act wrongly. In this paper I will argue that (...) such reasons are a symptom of a fundamental inconsistency between the Kantian Contractualist Formula and Parfit’s view of reasons. The formula requires that we consider what everyone could rationally will, while a wide value-based objective view requires that we consider only what the agent has sufficient reasons for doing. The same inconsistency is particularly obvious in Parfit’s version of the Consent Principle, which share important features with the Kantian Contractualist Formula. Parfit accepts that moral principles might entail that we sometimes have sufficient reasons to act wrongly. However, to accept that supreme moral principles have such implications is objectionable if you, like Parfit, also hold that principles with such implications should be rejected or revised. I suggest that we could abandon the requirement that we have to consider the reasons of everyone. This would make the Kantian Contractualist Formula consistent with Parfit’s view of reasons, at least in this respect. I also argue that we can keep most implications of the Kantian Contractualist Formula that Parfit finds attractive. (shrink)
Rawls developed a contractualist theory of social justice and Scanlon attempted to extend the Rawlsian framework to develop a theory of rightness, or morality more generally. I argue that there are some good reasons to adopt a contractualist theory of social justice, but that it is a mistake to adopt a contractualist theory of rightness. I begin by illustrating the major shared features of Scanlon and Rawls’ theories. I then show that the justification for these features in Rawls’ theory, the (...) centrality of cooperative fairness to social justice, cannot be used to defend their use in Scanlon’s. Finally, I argue that Scanlon has not provided an adequate alternative defense of these features, and show that they create problems when contractualists try to explain major features of our common-sense morality. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 135 - 160 A moral theory should tell us something about our obligations to future persons. It is therefore sometimes objected that contractualist moral theories cannot give a satisfactory account of such obligations, as there is little to motivate a contract with persons who can offer us almost nothing in return. I will argue that more recent “relational” forms of contractualism escape these objections. These forms of contractualism do, however, remain vulnerable (...) to Derek Parfit’s non-identity problem. Recent attempts to resolve this problem have looked to the role “generic reasons” and “standpoints” play in contractualist theories. I argue that these views provide an important line of response in cases where the deliberating agent has limited information about the identities of those their actions will affect, but that the non-identity problem is not such a case. I conclude by considering some remaining options for the relational contractualist. (shrink)
Following are two short contributions to the book, _Criminal Law Conversations_: commentaries on Paul Robinson's discussion of "Empirical Desert" and Antony Duff & Sandra Marshal's discussion of the sharing of wrongs.
One of the reasons why Kantian contractualism has been seen as an appealing alternative to utilitarianism is that it seems to be able to avoid utilitarianism's extreme demandingness, while retaining a fully impartial moral point of view. I argue that in the current state of the world, contractualist obligations to help those in need are not significantly less demanding than utilitarian obligations. I also argue that while a plausible version of utilitarianism would be considerably less demanding if the state (...) of the world were different, a central aspect of contractualism means that it would remain exceedingly demanding in any practically realizable state of the world. (shrink)
Decisions to use antibiotics require that patient interests are balanced against the public good, that is, control of antibiotic resistance. Patients carry the risks of suboptimal antibiotic treatment and many physicians are reluctant to impose even small avoidable risks on patients. At the same time, antibiotics are overused and antibiotic-resistant microbes are contributing an increasing burden of adverse patient outcomes. It is the criteria that we can use to reject the use of antibiotics that is the focus of this paper. (...) Scanlon's contractualism explains why antibiotics should not be used to gain small benefits, even when the direct costs of antibiotics are low. We know that some individuals now (and probably more in the future will) carry a burden of irretrievable harm as a consequence of treatment- (antibiotic-) resistant infection. If we accept that the dominant justification for use of antibiotics is to prevent irretrievable harm to an individual or contact, then the use of antibiotics for self-limiting conditions, or for the treatment of individuals with conditions for which antibiotics do not substantially impact on outcomes (eg, in the latter stages of terminal illness), or for access based on preference or willingness to pay (internet or over-the-counter access), or the use of antibiotics as animal growth promoters can be rejected. Scanlon's approach also suggests that, with few new antibiotics in the pipeline and an increasing burden of disease attributable to resistant microbes, control of the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes should be given increasing priority. (shrink)
Derek Parfit’s On What Matters endorses Kantian Contractualism, the normative theory that everyone ought to follow the rules that everyone could rationally will that everyone accept. This paper explores Parfit’s argument that Kantian Contractualism converges with Rule Consequentialism. A pivotal concept in Parfit’s argument is the concept of impartiality, which he seems to equate agent-neutrality. This paper argues that equating impartiality and agent-neutrality is insufficient, since some agent-neutral considerations are silly and some are not impartial. Perhaps more importantly, (...) there is little realistic prospect of Kantian Contractualism converging with Rule Consequentialism unless the same impartial reasons drive rule selection in the two theories. (shrink)
One familiar criticism of utilitarianism is that it is too demanding. It requires us to promote the happiness of others, even at the expense of our own projects, our integrity, or the welfare of our friends and family. Recently Ashford has defended utilitarianism, arguing that it provides compelling reasons for demanding duties to help the needy, and that other moral theories, notably contractualism, are committed to comparably stringent duties. In response, I argue that utilitarianism is even more demanding than (...) is commonly realized: both act- and rule-utilitarianism are committed to extremely stringent duties to wild animals. In this regard, utilitarianism is more demanding (and more counter-intuitive) than contractualism. (shrink)
The publicity of a moral conception is a central idea in Kantian and contractarian moral theory. Publicity carries the idea of general acceptability of principles through to social relations. Without publicity of its moral principles, the intuitive attractiveness of the contractarian ideal seems diminished. For it means that moral principles cannot serve as principles of practical reasoning and justification among free and equal persons. This article discusses the role of the publicity assumption in Rawlss and Scanlons contractualism. I contend (...) that a regard for publicity and a moral conceptions potential to provide a public basis for justification and agreement account for much of the evolution of Rawlss account of justice after A Theory of Justice . I also discuss whether contractualism can provide a basis for justification and general agreement under the social conditions that it endorses. I contend that it cannot, and conclude with a discussion showing why this should not be a problem for contractualism. Despite appearances, contractualism is a distinctive form of contractarianism, substantially different from Rawlss position and the social contract tradition out of which it evolved. Key Words: contractarianism contractualism John Rawls public justification T.M. Scanlon justice. (shrink)
According to Parfit, the best version of Kantian ethics takes as its central principle Kantian Contractualism: the thesis that everyone ought to follow the principles whose universal acceptance everyone could rationally will. This paper examines that thesis, identifies a class of annoying counterexamples, and suggests that when Kantian Contractualism is modified in response to these examples, the resulting principle is too complex and ad hoc to serve as the 'supreme principle of morality'.
I argue that T.M. Scanlon's contractualist account of morality has difficulty accommodating our intuitions about the moral relevance of the number of people affected by an action. I first consider the "Complaint Model" of reasonable rejection, which restricts the grounds for an individual's rejection of a principle to its effects upon herself. I argue that it can accommodate our intuitions about numbers only if we assume that, whenever we do not know who will be affected, each individual may appeal only (...) to the _expected effects on her. This assumption, I suggest, leads to counterintuitive results in cases where, although we do not know who will be affected, we do know that _someone will be. I then consider two proposals to supplement the complaint model with a direct appeal to aggregation. I argue that both are open to serious objections. (shrink)
This is a longer critical notice of T.M. Scanlon's book Moral Dimensions. The main crux of the article is to investigate how Scanlon's claims about the moral significance of intentions and reactive attitudes in this book fit with the earlier contractualist ethical theory which he presented in What We Owe to Each Other.
Contractualism/Contractarianism collects, for the first time, both major classical sources and central contemporary discussions of these important approaches to philosophical ethics. Edited and introduced by Stephen Darwall, these readings are essential for anyone interested in normative ethics.
In response to the charge that deontic ("argent-centered") restrictions are paradoxical, several recent writers suggest that such restrictions find support within T.M. Scanlon's contractualism. I suggest that this claim is only interesting if these restrictions are stronger than those supported by indirect consequentialism. I argue that contractualism cannot support restrictions any stronger than those supported by indirect consequentialism. The contractualists have mislocated the source of the paradox, which arises under any theory that defines right action in patient-focused terms. (...) Consequentialism and contractualism share this feature, so contractualism cannot support stronger deontic restrictions than consequentialism supports. (shrink)
This article provides a critical introduction to contractualism as a moral or ethical theory, that is, as a theory of the rightness and wrongness of individual conduct – focusing specifically on the influential 'Kantian' version of contractualism due to T. M. Scanlon. I begin by elucidating the key features of Scanlon's contractualism: justifiability to others; reasonable rejectability; the individualist restriction; and mutual recognition. I then turn to discuss both its appeal and the main objections that have been (...) raised to it – objections concerning our duties to the cognitively limited and impaired, aggregation, demandingness, normativity and explanatory adequacy. I conclude by mentioning some contractualist alternatives to Scanlon's theory. (shrink)
Can contractualism yield a suitably egalitarian conception of social justice? G.A. Cohen has forcefully argued that it cannot - that one cannot be both a contractualist and an egalitarian. Cohen presents a number of arguments to this effect, the particular target of which is John Rawls’s version of contractualism. In this article, I show that, contra Cohen, the Rawlsian model of contractualism, and the ideal of reciprocity on which it relies, can coherently yield egalitarian principles of distributive (...) justice such as the difference principle. I also defend Rawls from the further claim, pressed by Cohen and others, that relying on the idea of mutual or reciprocal advantage will leave the infirm or severely handicapped outside the scope of egalitarian justice. I argue that Rawlsians can account for the claims that the infirm or severely handicapped have on others in terms of a natural duty to aid. Key Words: G.A. Cohen • John Rawls • duty to aid • incentives • inequality • difference principle • social contract. (shrink)
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , the US Supreme Court sharply curtailed the ability of the state to limit political speech by for-profit corporations. This new legal situation elevates the question of corporate political involvement: in what manner and to what extent is it ethical for for-profit corporations to participate in the political process in a liberal democratic society? Using Scanlon’s version of contractualism, I argue for a number of substantive and procedural constraints on the political activities (...) of businesses. Central to this contractualist analysis is an identification of the self-governance-based interests of individuals that are affected by corporate political activity and a method for judging the various assignments of social rights, duties and roles according to how they collectively meet those interests. Together, these two features make this contractualist approach distinctive and allow it to generate substantive ethical results. (shrink)
I will begin this paper by identifying the problem within the theory of ethics, which contractualism as a moral theory is attempting to address. It is not that of solving the problem of moral motivation like the ‘arch-contractualist’, Thomas Scanlon, often claims, but rather that of describing a class of fundamental moral reasons – contractualist reasons for short. In the second section, I will defend the contractualist idea of how the nature of these moral reasons provides us with sufficient, (...) independent tools to construct the content of public moral principles. The rest of my paper is defensive. It addresses the main challenges set to the contractualist account of moral reasons. In the third section, I will discuss a frequent objection according to which the contractualist reasons are a redundant addition to the space of moral reasons. In the fourth section, I will examine the worry that acting from these reasons would not lead to morally admirable action but rather to vice. In the last section, I will investigate the criticism according to which the normative force of the contractualist reasons is insufficient for rationalising our moral actions in certain difficult circumstances. In this section, we get to the heart of the matter – what the reasons contractualism describes truly are, and how they can explain the generally overriding strength of our moral requirements. I hope to conclude that even after these serious challenges contractualism remains a philosophically viable account of morality's rationalistic appeal. (shrink)
According to a popular contemporary contractualist account of moral motivation, the most plausible explanation for why those who are concerned with morality take moral reasons seriously — why these reasons strike those who are moved by them with a particular inescapability — is that they stem from, and are grounded by, a desire to be able to justify one’s actions to others on grounds they could not reasonably reject.1 My.
Suppose a physician advises a woman to delay her planned pregnancy for a few months in order to significantly reduce the likelihood that her baby will suffer with Spina Bifida. If the woman chooses to ignore this advice and conceives soon after, I believe most people would consider it a matter of common sense that the child thus born is a victim of this woman’s negligence, even if it is fortunate enough to not be burdened with Spina Bifida. This common (...) sense judgement appeared to have been done in by the fact that the timing of conception can be identity-influencing, and so the child that is born only exists because of its mother’s decision to ignore her physician’s advice. However, recently, contemporary contractualist theories have been used to make sense of preconception negligence towards persons whose existence is a result of that same negligence. I will briefly discuss this interesting development and then show how this retrieval of the common sense judgement comes at a great cost to prenatal reproductive autonomy. (shrink)
Unrejectability is the property shared by things no one could reasonably reject. Following the lead of T. M. Scanlon, modern contractualists hold Principle Contractualism: An act is obligatory when conformity to unrejectable principles requires its performance. This article entertains Act Contractualism: An act is obligatory when its performance is unrejectable. The article hypothesizes that Principle Contractualism owes its initial plausibility to the assumption that following it somehow realizes unrejectability, if only indirectly. The article then argues that, whereas (...) following Act Contractualism realizes unrejectability, following Principle Contractualism realizes a convoluted, principle-mediated, non-causal conformity relation between acts and unrejectability. But then the notion that this relation is what matters ultimately in action does not seem to enjoy independent plausibility. After interrogating Scanlon's objection that the challenge to the principle-based nature of contractualism is , I conclude that Act Contractualism is the more fitting contractualist theory of obligation. (shrink)
Contractualist moral theories are often criticized on the grounds that they have counterintuitive implications for moral status. In this paper I attempt to provide a comprehensive answer to the question: What forms of contractualism face this problem, and how serious is the problem? To do this I develop a classification of different kinds of contractualist theory, based on philosophical motivation.