Is moral contractualism plausible?
As with any moral theory, one must apply it to real life to ascertain whether it works in practice or not. Contractualism therefore must be equally scrutinised. In the essay I will outline the basic Hobbesian argument, the Kantian argument and Scanlonian argument whilst refuting contractualism’s plausibility. Later I will compare the impartial contractualism moral theory with a consequentialist moral theory in order to strengthen my argument and establish the plausibility of contractualism.
1) Annas, J. (1981) An Introduction to Plato's Republic. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p.64-65. 2) Annas, J. (1981) An Introduction to Plato's Republic. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p.64-65. The types of contractualism I will be discussing are Hobbesian, Kantian and Scanlonian. Hobbesian contractualism’s basic concept is that it thinks of morality as a set of contracts that are mutually beneficial to everyone. This idea begins by explaining that we are all better off in a world where no one attacks one another, steals, breaks promises, lies or murders. And while one person may at times benefit from partaking in the above, everyone benefits more if everyone is prevented from breaking these ‘contracts’. The Hobbesian theory goes on to say that a person would be even better off if he/she was able to break all these rules whilst everyone else was obliged to keep to the contracts. This idea is derived from Glaucon’s concept of the Ring of Gyges, where Gyges comes across a ring that allowed him to become invisible at will. “Now if a just man came into possession of such a ring, claims Glaucon, he would use it to do exactly what the unjust man does – kill his enemies, have sex with anyone he fancied, get his friends out of danger, and all with impunity”1. Glaucon claims that this proves that just men are only so ‘through compulsion’; as soon as it is possible to get away with it he will act as an unjust man. Therefore is it arguably better for a...
Bibliography: Hooker, B. (2012) Lecture 7: Contractualism. [in person] University of Reading, Spring Term.
Annas, J. (1981) An Introduction to Plato 's Republic. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p.64-65.
Plato.stanford.edu (2007) Contractualism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). [online] Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/contractualism/ [Accessed: 14 Mar 2012].
John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, Fontana Press 1962.
Henry R. West, An Introduction to Mill’s Utilitarian Ethics, Cambridge 2004.
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