In his seminal essay, 'Two Concepts of Rules', John Rawls draws a central distinction between justifying a practice and justifying a particular action falling under it. In this review, Leslie Allan walks through Rawls's essay, highlighting his key arguments for a strengthened version of rule utilitarianism and reflecting on the lasting influence of his analysis.
This paper discusses the "numbers problem," the problem of explaining why you should save more people rather than fewer when forced to choose. Existing non-consequentialist approaches to the problem appeal to fairness to explain why. I argue that this is a mistake and that we can give a more satisfying answer by appealing to requirements of charity or beneficence.
This book features new approaches to social contract theory. Whereas traditional social contract theories and their adaptations in the twentieth century were developed for fairly homogeneous societies, societies in the twenty-first century often are characterized by conflicting first-order directives that stem from deep moral, political, religious, and cultural diversity. To address such diversity and the complexities of contemporary societies, new approaches (including formal approaches) to social contract theory have emerged that re-envision the social contract for a fragmented and sometimes polarized, (...) yet interdependent social world. New social contract theory explores how, in a world of continuous disagreement on questions of justice, in particular the ideals of liberty and equality, society can not only progress, but also flourish and become more robust and open in its social fabric. This book brings together, for the first time, defenders and discussants of new social contract theory. It includes contributions by eminent and emerging scholars in this field. The book clarifies the distinct features of new social contract theory and provides a valuable starting point for discussion of this novel movement in social contract theory. (shrink)
Moral contractualism holds that addressing our minds to the morality of right and wrong involves identifying principles for the mutual regulation of behavior that could be the object of reasonable agreement among persons if they were appropriately motivated and fully informed. A common criticism of the theory is that the test of reasonable agreement it endorses is indeterminate. To be more specific, it is claimed that the notion of reasonableness is too vague or ill-defined to be of use in guiding (...) our decisions in situations where it is necessary to balance the complaints of different people against each other, so that we may derive an all things considered conclusion regarding what we ought, morally, to do. In this article, I propose a novel interpretation of the contractualist method of reasoning that overcomes the indeterminacy objection, building on a broadly Aristotelian conception of practical deliberation about ends. I demonstrate that this criticism is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of contractualist moral reasoning. The key is to recognize that deliberation about what others could not reasonably reject is not a matter of applying a fixed criterion of reasonableness in order to arbitrate conflicts between the interests of different individuals, as it is commonly assumed. Rather, it is a process in which the ideal of justifiability to others and people’s moral claims are specified together through holistic deliberation. The goal of this process is to construct a coherent conception of both our particular moral claims and the general aim of reasonable agreement that is reasonably acceptable to each person. On this view, contrary to what critics assert, the contractualist method of reasoning, properly understood, will almost always have a determinate answer. (shrink)
Argues for the role of personal acquaintance in both love and concern for individuals, as such. The challenge is to say what personal acquaintance is and why it matters in the way it does. These questions are addressed through the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Topics include: the ethics of aggregation, the basis of moral standing, and the value of human life.
Contractualism.Jussi Suikkanen - forthcoming - In Michael Hemmingsen (ed.), Ethical Theory in Global Perspective. New York, NY, USA: SUNY Press. pp. 221-235..details
This is a chapter on contractualism for Ethical Theory in Global Perspective, edited by Michael Hemmingsen (SUNY Press). The chapter (i) outlines contractualism as an ethical theory, (ii) explains how it differs from classical utilitarianism, (iii) explores the differences between ex post and ex ante contractualism, and (iv) finally looks at two traditional objections to the view.
Particular persons have claims against being made worse off than they could have been. The literature, however, has focused primarily on only two-option cases; yet, these cases fail to capture all of the morally relevant factors, especially when a person’s existence is in question. This paper explores how to assess claims in multiple-option choice sets. We scrutinize the only extant proposal, offered by Michael Otsuka, which we call the Weakening View. In light of its problems, we develop an alternative: the (...) Combining View. The Weakening View holds that a person’s claim against a loss of well-being relative to one distribution is weakened by the availability of further alternatives relative to which the person gains well-being. By contrast, our view holds that a person has an overall claim for or against a certain distribution relative to the whole option set, where overall claims are second-order functions of the different pairwise claims. Finally, we defend the Combining View by exploring its implications for the impact of a person’s possible non-existence on their overall claims, and we develop a proposal for how the number of distributions relative to which a person gains or loses welfare influences the strength of their overall claims. (shrink)
This chapter offers an overview and analysis of policing, the area of criminal justice associated primarily with law enforcement. The study of policing spans a variety of disciplines, including criminology, law, philosophy, politics, and psychology, among other fields. Although research on policing is broad in scope, it has become an especially notable area of study in contemporary legal and social philosophy given recent police controversies.
The use of deception and dishonesty is widely accepted as a fact of life in policing. This paper thus defends a counterintuitive claim: Good faith is a normative foundation for the police as a political institution. Good faith is a core value of contracts, and policing is contractual in nature both broadly (as a matter of social contract theory) and narrowly (in regard to concrete encounters between law enforcement officers and the public). Given the centrality of good faith to policing, (...) dishonesty and deception on par with fraud are justified only as a narrowly circumscribed investigative tool that is constrained by institutional commitments to the fair distribution of security and the rule of law. The practical upshot is the preclusion of most dishonest and deceptive police tactics on par with fraud, leading to an institution that is less proactive and more reactive. (shrink)
This paper develops a new theory of the morality of promissory obligations. T. M. Scanlon notoriously argued that promising consists in assuring the promisee that we will do something. I disagree. I argue that it is true that promising consists in assuring the promisee, but what the promisor gives to the promisee is not an assurance that they will do something, but that the normative situation is in a certain way.
The Problem of Obligation is the problem of how to explain the features of moral obligations that distinguish them from other normative phenomena. Two recent accounts, the Second-Personal Account and the Relational Account, propose superficially similar solutions to this problem. Both regard obligations as based on the claims or legitimate demands that persons as such have on one another. However, unlike the Second-Personal Account, the Relational Account does not regard these claims as based in persons’ authority to address them. Advocates (...) of the Relational Account accuse the Second-Personal Account of falling prey to the Problem of Antecedence. According to this objection, the Second-Personal Account is committed to the implausible claim that we have an obligation to φ only if, and because, others demand that we φ. Since the Relational Account’s proposed solution to the Problem of Obligation does not face the Problem of Antecedence, its advocates argue that it is dialectically superior to the Second-Personal Account. In this paper, I defend the Second-Personal Account by arguing that, first, the Relational Account does not actually solve the Problem of Obligation and, second, the Second-Personal Account does not fall prey to the Problem of Antecedence. (shrink)
According to second‐personal approaches to moral obligation, the distinctive normative features of moral obligation can only be explained in terms of second‐personal relations, i.e. the distinctive way persons relate to each other as persons. But there are important disagreements between different groups of second‐personal approaches. Most notably, they disagree about the nature of second‐personal relations, which has consequences for the nature of the obligations that they purport to explain. This article aims to distinguish these groups from each other, highlight their (...) respective advantages and disadvantages, and thereby indicate avenues for future research. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that accounts of the normative basis of morality face the following puzzle, drawing on a case found in Susan Wolf’s influential discussion of conflicts between the moral and personal points of view. On the one hand, morality appears to constitute an independent point of view that can intelligibly conflict with, and can conceivably be overruled by, the verdicts of other points of view. On the other hand, moral demands appear to carry a distinctive sort of (...) authority; moral reasons normally seem to take priority over other kinds of considerations, and the verdicts of morality seem to possess a distinctive place in our deliberations, in that they appear to represent standards that we are open to legitimate complaint for failing to honor. After clarifying the nature of the problem, I argue that a contractualist theory of morality can resolve the puzzle by offering a compelling vindication of the independence of the moral perspective, the normal priority of moral reasons, and the deliberative significance of moral verdicts, within a unified theoretical framework. Furthermore, I claim that this contractualist analysis can help account for the sense of deep conflict that is characteristic of the sort of troubling moral choices that Wolf calls to our attention. (shrink)
Part of T. M. Scanlon’s project in What We Owe to Each Other (1998) is to explain the importance and priority of moral reasons. But Scanlon also argues that this priority of moral reasons is compatible with the pursuit of other things we value, such as friendship. To this end, Scanlon claims that contractualist moral reasons internally accommodate our interests in such values. In this paper, I argue that Scanlon is unsuccessful in showing the compatibility of morality and the pursuit (...) of our other values. The contractualist may not be able to be a good friend. (shrink)
Brad Hooker’s rule-consequentialism and T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism have been some of the most debated ethical theories in normative ethics during the last twenty years or so. This article suggests that these theories can be compared at two levels. Firstly, what are the deep, structural differences between the rule-consequentialist and contractualist frameworks in which Hooker and Scanlon formulate their views? Secondly, what are the more superficial differences between Hooker’s and Scanlon’s formulations of these theories? Based on exploring these questions and several (...) purported differences between Hooker’s and Scanlon’s views, this article argues that, at the structural level, the two theories are more similar than previous recognised. It suggests that there is only one candidate for a deeper difference and even it may not be that significant. This insight sheds new light on both contractualism and rule-consequentialism, and it will also help us to formulate better versions of the views. (shrink)
In constructivist contractualist theories, such as Rawls’, principles of justice should mirror beliefs that we all, in some sense, share. One would then arrive at principles that everybody could, in that sense, accept. These principles should specify, among other things, to whom to distribute the relevant benefits and burdens and to whom to assign responsibility for the distribution. In addition to this classical assignment problem, however, constructivist contractualism must also deal with a new, and quite different, assignment problem sincewhat to (...) count as beliefs that weall share depends on how the set of people that make up the “we” is delimited. Thus, for constructivist contractualism, the questions of whom to assign a part in the justification procedure and whom to exclude, and how to justify these inclusions and exclusions, are of crucial importance. In this chapter we consider the inclusion or exclusion of future generations, and how this case illuminates a general problem for constructivist contractualism. (shrink)
Existing accounts of social insurance tend to treat social risks as given and ask whether it is justified for the state to deal with these risks for its citizens. They ignore that many common risks are in fact imposed on citizens as a byproduct of the institutional choices of the society, which call for justification in the first place. In this paper, I use the Scanlonian contractualist framework to develop an account of just social risk imposition which implies a demand (...) for fair risk sharing by all members of a society. In particular, I defend a compensation principle which requires that compensation be paid to victims of risk materialisation. This duty of paying should be shared by all those who benefit from the imposition of the relevant risk. I suggest that this provides a case for social insurance as a way of fairly sharing the burden of social risks. (shrink)
How should contractualists assess the permissibility of risky actions? Both main views on the question, ex ante and ex post, fail to distinguish between different kinds of risk. In this article, I argue that this overlooks a third alternative that I call “objective ex ante contractualism”. Objective ex ante substitutes discounting complaints by epistemic risk in favor of discounting by objective risk. I further argue in favor of this new view. Objective ex ante contractualism provides the best model of justifiability (...) to each. (shrink)
This chapter presents a new argument for thinking of traditional ethical theories as methods that can be used in first-order ethics - as a kind of deliberation procedures rather than as criteria of right and wrong. It begins from outlining how ethical theories, such as consequentialism and contractualism, are flexible frameworks in which different versions of these theories can be formulated to correspond to different first-order ethical views. The chapter then argues that, as a result, the traditional ethical theories cannot (...) be evaluated in terms of their truth or correctness. Instead, I will suggest that these theories should be understood as providing different kind of ways of thinking about difficult moral problems. I then recommend a certain form of pragmatic pluralism - it may well be that different moral problems are better approached through different ethical theories. (shrink)
This is a defense of Rawls against recent criticism, ironically my own, though it is also a critique insofar as it addresses a problem that Rawls never does. As a defense, it is not a retraction of the original charges. As a critique, it is not more of the same op-position. In either capacity, it is not an afterthought. The charges were conceived from the outset with a specific solution in mind, which would have been too distracting to pursue in (...) the same article. This is that solution. It also highlights the problem. The original charges were that Rawls’s decision procedure for ethics does not justify his own moral principles, namely his principles of justice, and that the underlying problem may well keep the decision procedure from justifying any moral principles whatsoever, or at least any normatively useful ones. The underlying problem was, and still is, the model’s inherent universalism, which is built into the decision procedure through design specifications precluding relativism, yet only at the cost of limiting the relevant moral principles to generalities that are already widely accepted, thereby render-ing the procedure at best redundant and very likely vacuous as an ethical justification model. These difficulties are manifested in the work of Rawls as the dogmatism of champi-oning a distinctive conception of justice, a liberal one as he himself calls it, through a justification model that is too universalistic to permit such a bias and possibly also too universalistic to permit any substantive conclusions at all. The solution contemplated here is to position the decision procedure as a dynamic justification model responsive to moral progress, as opposed to a static one indifferent to such progress and equally open to all moral input, thus removing the inconsistency between the universalistic design and any distinctive or controversial principles, including the ones Rawls himself recommends, so long as they are consistent with moral progress. (shrink)
You and I lead different lives. While we share a society and a world, our existence is separate from one another. You and I matter individually, by ourselves. My dissertation is about this simple thought. I argue that this simple insight, the separateness of persons, tells us something fundamental about morality. My dissertation seeks to answer how the separateness of persons matters. I develop a precise view of the demands of the separateness of persons. The separateness of persons imposes both (...) a requirement on the justification of first-order moral principles as well as a requirement on the content of first-order moral principles. In specifying these demands, I argue that respecting the separateness of persons requires taking into consideration each person’s point of view separately. This requires taking into account the moral relations in which individuals stand to one another. I make use of this relational understanding of the separateness of persons to advance various debates in moral and political philosophy. I argue for a framework to assess to which extent the veil of ignorance can be reconciled with the separateness of persons. I also argue for a new view on the ethics of risk which is a form of contractualism that discounts risks only by their objective risk. Furthermore, I argue for a new solution to the problem of aggregation that is skeptical of aggregation and can set plausible limits to aggregation. Lastly, I provide a new relational agent-based justification for deontological constraints. In addition to answering how the separateness of persons matters, I defend the separateness of persons against challenges. Most importantly, I argue that the importance of the separateness of persons is not undermined even if we believe that our personal identity, i.e. whether we persist as the same person, is unimportant. (shrink)
This essay begins by describing T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism according to which an action is right when it is authorised by the moral principles no one could reasonably reject. This view has argued to have implausible consequences with regards to how different-sized groups, non-human animals, and cognitively limited human beings should be treated. It has also been accused of being theoretically redundant and unable to vindicate the so-called deontic distinctions. I then distinguish between the general contractualist framework and Scanlon’s version of (...) contractualism. I explain how the general framework enables us to formulate many other versions of contractualism some of which can already be found in the literature. Understanding contractualism in this new way enables us both to understand the structural similarities and differences between different versions of contractualism and also to see the different objections to contractualism as internal debates about which version of contractualism is correct. (shrink)
Contractualism is a normative theory which characterizes principles of right in terms of the idea of mutual respect. In this theory, mutual respect is regarded as having deliberative priority over other values. This essay aims to examine how contractualists can provide a satisfactory justification for prioritizing mutual respect. I will argue that the ‘value of mutual respect argument,’ which is a justification commonly adopted by contractualists, is inadequate because an unconditional priority of mutual respect cannot be grounded on the desirability (...) of a relationship of mutual respect. Then I will suggest that a ‘consistency argument’ can provide a better justification of why the idea of mutual respect should have priority. Mutual respect is of special importance, not because it is highly desirable, but rather because it is required by an a priori guiding principle of consistency. Individuals become inconsistent if they ask others to respect them as reason-assessing individuals, while at the same time refusing to respect others in the same way. (shrink)
Contractualism has obtained relative success in moral theory for being able to deal with cases in which consequentialist theories of morality fail, specially those that involve problems with aggregation. Aggregation is, simply put, the ideia that we should measure the value of an action not by considering how it affects each individual, but by adding the good its consequences produce, looking for the best "balance" of good. Philosophers like John Rawls and T. M. Scanlon pointed out that aggregation seems to (...) require positive evaluation of cases in which a minority is deeply burdened so that a majority is a little benefited; a rather uninituitive result. Contractualists like Scanlon argue that their theory, because of their Individualist Restriction, is essentially anti-aggregative and so it is immune to this problem. However, as Michael Otsuka and others noted, eliminating aggregation has its costs, since we are left with difficulties to explain cases where the "numbers seem to matter". This chapter aims to present different contractualist responses to these cases, laying out the distinction between ex post and ex ante contractualism — a distinction relative to the conditions in which moral justification is to be considered — and defends the ex ante view of justification advocated by contractualists like Rahul Kumar, Johann Frick and, recently, even Scanlon. -/- . (shrink)
Epistemologists have long worried that the willingness of open-minded people to reconsider their beliefs in light of new evidence is both a condition of improving their beliefs and a risk factor for losing their grip on what they already know. In this paper I introduce and attempt to resolve a moral variation of this puzzle: A willingness to engage people having strange or (to us) repugnant moral ideals looks like a condition of broadening our moral horizons, but also a risk (...) factor for doing the wrong thing or becoming bad. I pursue a contractualist line according to which such hazardous engagement is a virtue only when it matters to our interlocutors whether they can justify themselves to us on terms we can accept—and for our sake or for the sake of their own virtue, not instrumentally or to get something out of us. When it does not so matter, openness can be unintelligent or gullible, i.e. not virtuous. (shrink)
Abstract. In Minimal Morality (2018), I develop a multilevel social contract theory that accommodates deep moral pluralism. In this article, I reply to comments by Gaus, Van Schoelandt and Cooper concerning the three core projects of the book that aim to (i) revive orthodox rational choice contractarianism as a viable approach to the social contract, (ii) integrate this approach into a comprehensive social contract theory and (iii) show the applicability of the theory to the real world. My replies clarify some (...) of the main features of the theory, defend its core projects and expand discussion of some of its details in order to show that the theory can address the challenges raised. (shrink)
In Minimal Morality, I develop a multilevel social contract theory that, in contrast to existing theories in the liberal tradition, does not merely assume a restricted form of reasonable moral pluralism, but is tailored to the conditions of deeply morally pluralistic societies that may include liberal moral agents, nonliberal moral agents, and, according to the traditional understanding of morality, nonmoral agents. The theory takes its main inspiration from the moral theories of Hobbes (1651), Hume (1739/1740), and Kant (1785, 1795, and (...) 1797), and some of their contemporary followers, such as Rawls (1971) and Gauthier (1986). In its simplified form, the theory combines what I call traditional first-level morality with second-level pure instrumental morality and derives, in the form of the weak principle of universalization, a principle of conflict resolution that defines the minimal behavioral restrictions that are necessary to ensure, compared to violent conflict resolution, mutually beneficial peaceful long-term cooperation in deeply morally pluralistic societies. I argue that, despite its ideal nature, this theory is, in principle, applicable to the real world and, for the conditions described, most promising for securing mutually beneficial peaceful long-term cooperation in a world in which a fully just society, due to moral pluralism, is unattainable. (shrink)
This thesis provides a restatement of Kantian constructivism, with the aim of avoiding some of the objections and clearing up some of the ambiguities that have haunted previous versions of the view. I restate Kantian constructivism as the view that morality’s normativity has its source in the form of second-personal reasoning, a mode of practical reasoning in which we engage when we address demands person-to-person. By advancing a position about the source of moral normativity, Kantian constructivism addresses a metaethical question, (...) albeit one that is distinct from the questions that many traditional metaethical positions, such as moral realism, focus on. Kantian constructivism has an advantage over competing views of the source of moral normativity when it comes to answering the so-called Normative Question, which I interpret as the question of why we are rationally required to do what we take to be our moral obligation. Kantian constructivism can answer this question because, unlike its competitors, it does not conceive of practical reason as a receptive faculty that is determined by external inputs. Instead, it regards the very form of second-personal reasoning as grounding the fact that morality is normative, thus explaining morality’s rational authority. Although second-personal reasoning is fundamentally distinct from the merely first-personal mode of reasoning that we must engage in insofar as we are agents, all those agents whom we would ordinarily consider bound by moral obligations seem to engage in it. Indeed, although it involves irreducibly second-personal notions, such as accountability and the authority to address legitimate demands, second-personal reasoning is not to be mistaken for a social practice. Instead, it can be applied to purely self-regarding contexts, such as that of committing oneself to a personal project and thereby holding oneself accountable for pursuing it, as well as to interactions with others. (shrink)
How should contractualists seek to accommodate and respond to the existence of radical pluralism within contemporary liberal states? Ryan Muldoon has recently argued that a) the dominant Kantian liberal model of contractualism is hopelessly ill equipped to do so but that b) there is a particular kind of Hobbesian contractualism that can do much better. I raise some problems concerning the capacity of Muldoonian contractualism to respond appropriately to the problem of radical pluralism. I then propose a very different kind (...) of solution that involves embracing an advice model of contractualism. Keywords: contractualism; contractarianism; pluralism; diversity; disagreement . (shrink)
According to contractualist theories in ethics, whether an action is wrong is determined by whether it could be justified to others on grounds no one could reasonably reject. Contractualists then think that reasonable rejectability of principles depends on the strength of the personal objections individuals can make to them. There is, however, a deep disagreement between contractualists concerning from which temporal perspective the relevant objections to different principles are to be made. Are they to be made on the basis of (...) the prospects the principles give to different individuals ex ante or on the basis of the outcomes of the principles ex post? Both answers have been found to be problematic. The ex ante views make irrelevant information about personal identity morally significant and lead to objectionable ex ante rules, whereas ex post views lead to counterintuitive results in the so-called different harm and social risk imposition cases. The aim of this article is to provide a new synthesis of these views that can avoid the problems of the previous alternatives. I call the proposal ‘risk-acknowledging’ ex post contractualism. The crux of the view is to take into account in the comparisons of different objections both the realized harms and the risks under which individuals have to live. (shrink)
Trust is so intimately linked with faith that sometimes trust needs faith to unfold in a relationship. I argue that the role of this faith element in trust is to elevate the status of the one in which we trust so as to emphasize the equal dignity of all the participants in the relationship of trust. Against views that focus on a «rational» trust based on an exaggerated emphasis on the capacity of self-trust as a point of departure for the (...) trust in others, the essay develops toward the depiction of a kind of trust that is rooted in faith and still maintains a «reasonable» character. By way of discussing the implications of Thomas Hobbes’s reflections on covenants and contracts, and Annette Baier’s critique of what she sees as the Hobbesian «fixation» on contracts, I argue toward the identification of what I call a «covenantal trust» in contemporary political ontology. (shrink)
We argue that individuals who have access to vaccines and for whom vaccination is not medically contraindicated have a moral obligation to contribute to the realisation of herd immunity by being vaccinated. Contrary to what some have claimed, we argue that this individual moral obligation exists in spite of the fact that each individual vaccination does not significantly affect vaccination coverage rates and therefore does not significantly contribute to herd immunity. Establishing the existence of a moral obligation to be vaccinated (...) despite the negligible contribution each vaccination can make to the realisation of herd immunity is important because such moral obligation would strengthen the justification for coercive vaccination policies. We show that two types of arguments—namely a utilitarian argument based on Parfit’s Principle of Group Beneficence and a contractualist argument—can ground an individual moral obligation to be vaccinated, in spite of the imperceptible contribution that any single vaccination makes to vaccine coverage rates. We add a further argument for a moral obligation to be vaccinated that does not require embracing problematic comprehensive moral theories such as utilitarianism or contractualism. The argument is based on a “duty of easy rescue” applied to collectives, which grounds a collective moral obligation to realise herd immunity, and on a principle of fairness in the distribution of the burdens that must be borne to realise herd immunity. (shrink)
Le présent ouvrage fait suite aux deux précédents volumes de l’auteur : (2015) Droit des affaires en Afrique subsaharienne et économie planétaire, et (2016) : Démocratie électorale en Afrique subsaharienne Entre droit, pouvoir et argent, publiés par les Éditions Globethics. Bien que Pascal Mukonde convoque le thème du contrat du point de vue strictement juridique et dans le contexte du droit africain en RD. Congo, sur une ligne de recherche systématique (p.75), nous souhaitons mentionner comme préliminaire, la place de l’éthique (...) vis-à-vis des concepts juridiques, dans ce livre centré sur la notion de contrat. Le contrat est en effet un concept central dans l’histoire de la philosophie, partagé entre les normes du droit et un type de collaboration politique. Il est intéressant de comparer la valeur éthique du concept de partenariat, dans l’expression « contrat de partenariat », que nous mettons par hypothèse en rapport avec une finalité de développement, car parmi les risques d’un contrat de partenariat, en particulier entre le public et le privé, il n’est pas seulement question de risques économiques : il y a aussi celui éthique de réputation, par exemple lorsqu’il y a corruption des agents (cf. ci-dessous p. 130), c’est-à-dire des obstacles au développement liés au caractère non transparent des pratiques. (shrink)
The topic of moral diversity is not only prevalent in contemporary moral and political philosophy, it is also practically relevant. Moral diversity, however, poses a significant challenge for moral theory building. John Thrasher, in his discussion of public reason theory, which includes social contract theory, argues that if one seriously considers the goal of moral constructivism and considerations of representation and stability, then moral diversity poses an insurmountable problem for most public reason theories. I agree with Thrasher that moral diversity (...) poses a significant challenge for orthodox multistage social contract theories. In fact, I even add a further problem for such theories under the assumption of deep moral diversity. Nevertheless, I argue that my recently developed multilevel social contract theory overcomes these problems. I focus on some of the underexplored features of this theory to show that multilevel social contract theory offers one conceptually coherent and plausible way to render social contract theory viable and relevant for modern diverse societies. (shrink)
Central to the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute is the question of whether the core modeling device of Rawls' theory of justice, the original position, justifies Rawls' principles of justice, as Rawls suggests, or whether it justifies the average utility principle, as Harsanyi suggests. Many commentators agree with Harsanyi and consider this dispute to be primarily about the correct application of normative decision theory to Rawls' original position. I argue that, if adequately conceived, the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute is not primarily a dispute about the (...) correct application of normative decision theory to Rawls' original position. Instead, Rawls and Harsanyi aim to model different moral ideals, and this difference in their moral assumptions leads them to significantly different conclusions about justice. There is no winner in the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute. Instead, the dispute merely clarifies the moral ideals and their formal representations that need to be assumed in order to justify either Rawls' contractualist principles of justice or the average utility principle. Thus understood, the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute offers a promising starting point for future research that can deepen and enrich our understanding of the demands of justice. (shrink)
Traditional rule consequentialism faces a problem sometimes called the ideal world objection—the worry that by looking only at the consequences in worlds where rules are universally adhered to, the theory fails to account for problems that arise because adherence to rules in the real world is inevitably imperfect. In response, recent theorists have defended sophisticated versions of rule consequentialism which are sensitive to the consequences in worlds with less utopian levels of adherence. In this paper, I argue that these attempts (...) underestimate the problem they are designed to avoid—the worry about ideal worlds is only one manifestation of a deeper and more general problem, the distant world objection, which threatens not only the sophisticated revisions of rule consequentialism, but any view which determines what we ought to do by evaluating worlds that differ from ours in more than what is up to us. (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)
A difficult problem for contractualists is how to provide an interpretation of the contractual situation that is both subject to appropriately stringent constraints and yet also appropriately sensitive to certain features of us as we actually are. My suggestion is that we should embrace a model of contractualism that is structurally analogous to the “advice model” of the ideal observer theory famously proposed by Michael Smith (1994; 1995). An advice model of contractualism is appealing since it promises to deliver a (...) straightforward solution to the so-called “conditional fallacy.” But it faces some formidable challenges. On the face of it, it seems to be straightforwardly conceptually incoherent. And it seems to deliver a solution to the conditional fallacy at the cost of being vulnerable to what I shall call “the concessional fallacy.” I shall consider how, if at all, these challenges are to be met. I shall then conclude by considering what this might mean for the so-called “ideal/non-ideal theory” issue. (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)
According to prioritarianism, an influential theory of distributive justice, we have a stronger reason to benefit people the worse off these people are. Many authors have adopted a consequentialist version of prioritarianism. On this account, we have a consequentialist reason to benefit the worse off because the state of affairs where the worse off gains a given amount of utility is more valuable than the state of affairs where the better off gains roughly the same amount of utility. In this (...) paper, we argue that the consequentialist approach to prioritarianism is problematic. However, it doesn't follow that the prioritarian doctrine per se is groundless. We then suggest that we can make sense of prioritarianism by appeal to a contractualist approach. (shrink)
How does morality allocate responsibility for what it requires? I am concerned here with one fundamental part of this question, namely, how morality determines responsibility when multiple agents are capable of contributing to or completing a moral task, and special relationships capable of generating duties with respect to the task are non-existent, insufficient as a moral response, or partly indeterminate. On one view, responsibility falls to the agents who can bear it with the least burden. I show why this is (...) initially attractive and mistaken. Instead, I defend an equity-based approach that accommodates the intuitions that both support and trouble the least-cost principle. One upshot is that sometimes we ought prefer a distribution of responsibility that is more expensive and less local than needed to complete the task. I illustrate the practical significance of the argument in terms of the human rights of refugees. (shrink)
T. M. Scanlon’s contractualism attempts to give an account of right and wrong in terms of the moral code that could not be reasonably rejected. Reasonable rejectability is then a function of what kind of consequences the general adoption of different moral codes has for different individuals. It has been shown that moral codes should be compared at a lower than 100% level of social acceptance. This leads to the counter-culture challenge. The problem is that the cultural background of the (...) individuals who have not internalized the majority code affects the consequences of the codes and furthermore there does not seem to be a non-arbitrary way of choosing the minority cultures. This chapter first surveys and critically evaluates different responses to this challenge. It then outlines a version of ‘Real World Contractualism’, which offers the best response to the counter-culture challenge. (shrink)
Americans today are far less likely to trust their institutions, and each other, than in decades past. This collapse in social and political trust arguably fuels our increasingly ferocious ideological conflicts and hardened partisanship. Many believe that our previously high levels of trust and bipartisanship were a pleasant anomaly and that we now live under the historic norm. Seen this way, politics itself is nothing more than a power struggle between groups with irreconcilable aims: contemporary American politics is war because (...) political life as such is war. -/- Must Politics Be War? argues that our shared liberal democratic institutions have the unique capacity to sustain social and political trust between diverse persons. In succinct, convincing prose, Kevin Vallier argues that constitutional rights and democratic governance prevent any one ideology or faith from dominating all others, thereby protecting each person's freedom to live according to her values and principles. Illiberal arrangements, where one group's ideology or faith reigns, turn those who disagree into unwilling subversives, persons with little reason to trust their regime or to be trustworthy in obeying it. Liberal arrangements, in contrast, incentivize trust and trustworthiness because they allow people with diverse and divergent ends to act with conviction. Those with opposing viewpoints become trustworthy because they can obey the rules of their society without acting against their ideals. Therefore, as Vallier illuminates, a liberal society is one at moral peace with a politics that is not war. (shrink)
Chapter 1 of this book argued that moral philosophy should be based on seven principles of theory selection adapted from the sciences. Chapter 2 argued that these principles support basing normative moral philosophy on a particular problem of diachronic instrumental rationality: the ‘problem of possible future selves.’ Chapter 3 argued that a new moral principle, the Categorical-Instrumental Imperative, is the rational solution to this problem. Chapter 4 argued that the Categorical-Instrumental Imperative has three equivalent formulations akin to but superior to (...) Kant’s formulations of the Categorical Imperative. Chapter 5 argued that my principle’s three formulations make it rational to adopt a Moral Original Position to derive moral principles. The present chapter derives Four Principles of Fairness from the Moral Original Position--principles of coercion minimization, mutual assistance, fair negotiation, and virtue—and unifies them into a single principle of rightness: Rightness as Fairness. Finally, this chapter argues that Rightness as Fairness entails a novel approach to applied ethics called ‘principled fair negotiation’, illustrating how the theory provides a plausible new framework for addressing applied cases including lying, suicide, trolleys, torture, distribution of scarce resources, poverty, and the ethical treatment of animals. (shrink)