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© Michael Lacewing Morality as a social contract Michael Lacewing

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1 © Michael Lacewing Morality as a social contract Michael Lacewing

2 Why be moral? Egoism: because it is in my self-interest Contractarianism: morality is an agreement about how to behave that people have reached because they realise it is in their self-interest Morality as means to end, given by egoism This is also ‘rational’: it is rational to do what benefits oneself

3 The moral contract Better not to be harmed by others – hence constraints on others’ behaviour; but better not to be constrained Solution: agree to constraints given that others agree; not best for me, but best I can get Better to trust and co-operate; agreement to be moral generates trust The agreement will only work if it seems fair to each, since all are egoists

4 Prisoner’s Dilemma Barry confessesBarry doesn’t confess Adam confesses Both get 7 yearsAdam is free, Barry gets 10 years Adam doesn’t confess Adam gets 10 years, Barry is free Both get 2 years

5 The ‘free rider’ problem In a situation of trust, if everyone else is acting morally, it is even better to act self- interestedly – at least if you can get away with it. Morality is collectively in everyone’s self- interest, but it is in each person’s self- interest to break the agreement – knowing this, we won’t trust each other! Gauthier: we agree not just to act morally, but to be motivated morally, not just by egoism.

6 What kind of agreement? We cannot agree to change our motivations! Morality is not an actual, historical agreement; it is a hypothetical agreement. –Contractarianism says it is rational to be moral.

7 Objections What is rational in a hypothetical situation may not be rational in the real world. –Perhaps powerful people should agree to exploit powerless people. –Gauthier: this is unstable, because unfair; and morality operates as insurance Contract theory restricts morality to rational creatures, excluding children, animals, environment. Morality can’t be based on egoism at all. Contract theory doesn’t explain the authority of morality.


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