Is morality rational? In this book Gauthier argues that moral principles are principles of rational choice. He proposes a principle whereby choice is made on an agreed basis of cooperation, rather than according to what would give an individual the greatest expectation of value. He shows that such a principle not only ensures mutual benefit and fairness, thus satisfying the standards of morality, but also that each person may actually expect greater utility by adhering to morality, even though the choice (...) did not have that end primarily in view. In resolving what may appear to be a paradox, the author establishes morals on the firm foundation of reason. Gauthier's argument includes an account of value, linking it to preference and utility; a discussion of the curcumstances in which morality is unnecessary; and an application of morals by agreement to relations between peoples at different levels of development and different generations. Finally, he reflects on the assumptions about individuality and community made by his account of rationality and morality. (shrink)
David Gauthier is one of the most outstanding and influential philosophers working in moral theory today, and his book Morals by Agreement has established him as a preeminent defender of contractarian moral theory. This volume brings together a selection of his best essays on contractarianism, many of which have become difficult to find.
The conception of social relationships as contractual lies at the core of our ideology. Indeed, that core is constituted by the intersection of this conception with the correlative conceptions of human activity as appropriate and of rationality as utility-maximizing. My concern is to clarify this thesis and to enhance its descriptive plausibility as a characterization of our ideology, but to undermine its normative plausibility as ideologically effective.
Economic man seeks to maximize utility. The rationality of economic man is assumed, and is identified with the aim of utility-maximization. But may rational activity correctly be identified with maximizing activity? The object of this essay is to explore, and in part to answer, this question.This is not an issue solely, or perhaps even primarily, about the presuppositions of economics. The two great modern schools of moral and political thought in the English-speaking world, the contractarian and the utilitarian, identify rationality (...) with maximization, and bring morality into their equations as well. To the contractarian, rational man enters civil society to maximize his expectation of well-being, and morality is that system of principles of action which rational men collectively adopt to maximize their well-being. To the utilitarian, the rational and moral individual seeks the maximum happiness of mankind, with which he identifies his own maximum happiness. (shrink)
Law is the expression of public reason. I want to explicate and justify this assertion, which lies at the core of a normative theory of law. Primarily, I want to focus on the concept of public reason, showing what it is, relating it to private or individual reason, and finding its rationale in that relation. I shall then argue that public reason exhausts the normative space where law may be found. Appealing to public reason, I shall show that the authority (...) that law claims over the judgments and actions of citizens must ultimately be grounded in their own rationality. (shrink)
Current discussion of the normative issues surrounding secession is both helped and hindered by the existence of but one philosophic treatment of these issues sufficiently systematic and comprehensive to qualify as a theory of secession - Allen Buchanan’s. He provides the unique focal point, and so simplifies the task of those who seek to begin from the present state of the art. But in providing the unique focal point, Buchanan complicates the task of those who view, or think they view, (...) secession rather differently than he does. He defends ’a moral right to secede’ but a very qualified right, focusing on state-perpetrated injustice, the preservation of group culture and, in extreme cases, the literal survival of group members. And Buchanan further insists that where preservation of group culture is at stake, ’Neither the state nor any third party has a valid claim to the seceding territory’ -or such a claim is waived so that ’secession in order to preserve a culture is permissible if both parties consent to it’- a condition that he thinks may come to apply to the situation of Quebec. (shrink)
Are Hobbes's laws of nature to be understood primarily as theorems of reason, or as commands of God, or as commands of the civil sovereign? Each of these accounts can be given textual support; each identifies a role that the laws may be thought to play. Examining the full range of textual references, discussing the place of the laws of nature in Hobbes's argument, and considering how the laws may be known, give strongest support to the first of the three (...) accounts, that the laws are primarily rational precepts and only secondarily civil and divine commands. (shrink)
My concern in this paper is with the illumination that the theory of rational bargaining sheds on the formulation of principles of justice. I shall first set out the bargaining problem, as treated in the theory of games, and the Nash solution, or solution F. I shall then argue against the axiom, labeled “independence of irrelevant alternatives,” which distinguished solution F, and also against the Zeuthen model of the bargaining process which F formalizes.
Here a group of philosophers, economists and political theorists discuss the work of David Gauthier, which seeks to show that rational individuals would accept certain moral constraints on their choices. The possibilities and limitations of a contractarian approach to issues of justice is analyzed.
We propose a reflection on the construction of scientific knowledge and in so doing an image of this knowledge. This will allow us to develop a comparative analysis of some of the main principles underpinning the constitution of the different sciences. We will highlight the role of critical thought in science, or even “negative results,” which pose limits and hence open new trajectories. In particular, we will address a misleading point of view, based on some informal concepts taken from computer (...) science, which dominates the biological imaginary. An “ethics of knowledge” will follow, as a critical and open perspective, capable of taking on the well-intentioned responsibility of proposing universal, though not absolute, principles of knowledge. (shrink)
Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.These words, from Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration, ring unconvincingly in our ears. They affirm that the bonds of human society hold only those who believe in God. This affirmation breaks into two propositions: the bonds of (...) human society are promises, covenants, and oaths; promises, covenants, and oaths hold only those who believe in God.Much might be said about the first proposition, but not here. Whether it rings unconvincingly in our ears, surely the second does, and it is this which I shall address. The suppos1t1on that moral conventions depend on religious belief has become alien to our way of thinking. Modern moral philosophers do not meet it with vigorous denials or refutations; usually they ignore it. (shrink)
Towards the ends of their reviews, Annette Baier and Jean Hampton allow, if only momentarily, the real spectres to surface. Baier writes, ‘Gauthier rightly sees the dangers of exploitation and subjection inherent in a kin-based and affection-dependent morality, so purports to try for something totally different. Even if our moral natures cannot recognize themselves in Gauthier’s version of them, the problem that drives the attempt [for an individualist and unsentimental morality] is a real one, and so far, I think, an (...) unsolved one; unsolved for morality as well as for moral theory.’ Hampton writes, ‘Gauthier will point out that anyone who insists that a human being has objective value must develop a theory that will not only justify that claim but also explain what reason one would ever have for respecting this value. I believe this is a challenge one has no choice but to accept, given what the moral facts are.’. (shrink)
In his recent paper, “Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical,” John Rawls makes use of a footnote to disown what to many readers must have seemed one of the most striking and original underlying ideas of his theory of justice, that it “is a part, perhaps the most significant part, of the theory of rational choice.” That Rawls should issue this disclaimer indicates, at least in my view, that he has a much clearer understanding of his theory, and its relationship (...) to rational choice than he did at the time that he wrote A Theory of Justice. As I note in Morals by Agreement, Rawls does not show that principles of justice are principles of rational choice. Hence, in appropriating the idea, I can claim diat I am undertaking a pioneering enterprise. No doubt Thomas Hobbes would have undertaken it had the resources of the theory of rational choice been at his disposal, but I do not intend to pursue counterfactuals in a search for historical antecedents. Moral theory as rational choice theory is, I claim, a new venture. (shrink)
In this article, the authors examine the Heidegger-Levinas debate on dwelling and hospitality and assess its larger philosophical and political implications. Although Heidegger and Levinas are both critical of the subjectivist stance that engenders the rise of the homeless spirit, they posit different solutions to the Hegelian problematic, with Heidegger advocating an ontology of dwelling and Levinas propounding an ethic of hospitality. After a discussion of the larger political ramifications of their respective projects, we conclude with a critical assessment of (...) Heideggerian homecoming and Levinasian hospitality. More specifically, we attempt to identify the essential elements of a politics of place that is appreciative of the tension that exists between home and homelessness, between Ulysses and Abraham. (shrink)
This book explores the ethical and political implications of the debate between Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas on the question of Place. It relates their debate to larger disagreements concerning ontology and ethics, the status of humanism, and the relationship between worldliness and transcendence. Ultimately, in an epoch characterized by tribalism and globalization, the Heidegger-Levinas debate illuminates the need for a contemporary politics of place that enables human beings to dwell and practice hospitality.
Hobbes on Demonstration and Construction DAVID GAUTHIER 1~ IN 1656 Hobbes published Six Lessons to the Professors of Mathematics, with an Epistle Dedicatory to the Marquis of Dorchester, Lord Pierrepont. In this Epistle, Hobbes distinguishes the demonstrable from the indemonstrable arts: "demonstrable are those the construction of the subject whereof is in the power of the artist himself, who, in his demonstration, does no more but deduce the consequences of his own operation" . Although this passage, with the explication Hobbes (...) offers for it and the consequences he draws from it, and a similar discussion in De homine, published two years later, have not been unnoticed, their significance for Hobbes's account of science in general, and civil philosophy or politics in particular, has not, I think, been I am grateful to the University of East Anglia for appointing me a Visiting Research Fellow during the period in which the first draft of this paper was written. A second draft was presented at the Third Quadrennial International Fellows Conference of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, sponsored by the Florence Center for the History and Philosophy of Science. I am grateful for the remarks of my commentator, J. E. McGuire, and for the discussion. I am also grateful for the comments of the two referees who read this paper for the Journal of the History of Philosophy. References to Hobbes's works appear as.. (shrink)
Feiffer expresses my deep feeling of unease with Scanlon’s view of morality. Scanlon claims that if I’m for something because it’s right, or against it because it’s wrong, the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are to be understood in terms of what we owe to each other. And I reject the idea that, at the deepest level, a core part of morality is to be understood in terms of what is owed. The fundamental moral idea, I think, is that of not taking (...) advantage—not bettering ourselves by worsening others without their consent. And that would be very misleadingly expressed in the language of moral debt. But having registered my unease with what is revealed in and by Scanlon’s title, I shall attend to more particular matters that fail to convince me. Scanlon has made what is surely the most powerful and plausible case we have for a broadly Kantian contractualism. But I still believe that what is really wanted is an Hobbesian contractarianism. (shrink)