Contractualism and the Moral Point of View

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 25 (4):667-684 (2022)
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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.



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Ken Oshitani
Waseda University

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References found in this work

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.

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