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CHAPTER TWO: A Contractarian Response to the Challenge

Most contractarian accounts share common notions about the conditions that must obtain at the bargaining table: the parties to the agreement are thought of as being supremely rational, motivated to maximize self-interest, and so forth.12 I accept all these conditions as well (although I do not find it necessary to stipulate, with Rawls, that my bargainers are deliberating behind the ‘veil of ignorance’ – though I will not argue this point here). However, my account diverges from the standard contractarian stories in that it envisions the motivation of the bargainers’ to be twofold. This twofold motivation is in line with my earlier suggestion that we might expect a set of rational bargainers to be concerned with two types of goods. In other words, I fault the standard contractarian accounts for the same reason I faulted Kagan’s depiction of the contract approach above: while the standard accounts may adequately represent the bargainers’ attitudes towards natural goods, they do not sufficiently capture the attitude they can reasonably be expected to bear towards moral goods. And if we do consider the bargainers’ attitude towards moral goods, we will get a different story. In this chapter, I offer a rough outline of just such an account, which does take the bargainers’ attitude towards moral goods into account.

To begin with, I imagine my bargainers to be motivated to maximize self-interest, as are David Gauthier’s bargainers. But this motivation alone neglects to capture the bargainers’ attitude with respect to moral goods. And I imagine that the bargainers have a keen interest in at least this one moral good: they want the system of morality they adopt to be properly expressive and respectful of the moral status they bear as persons. Thus, the twofold motivation of my bargainers might be formulated as follows:

1. My bargainers are motivated to adopt a set of rules that, if generally followed, will be to everyone’s mutual welfare insofar as it seeks to maximize everyone’s self-interest, or at least seeks to maximize everyone’s ability to promote their own self-interest. Throughout this thesis, I will refer to this first motive as the ‘self-interest-maximizing motive.’


For a look at some prominent recent contractarian accounts, see Gauthier, Scanlon, and Rawls.


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