2. My bargainers will be motivated to formulate a set of rules that – while of course seeking to promote self-interest – is nevertheless tempered by the need for the moral system properly to respect and to give expression to their moral status as persons. I will refer to this as the ‘personhood-respecting motive.’ The bargainers’ first motivation seems relatively unproblematic and in need of little explanation here. Again, it is intended to be the same sort of motivation that is appealed to in many of the traditional contractarian accounts. Two questions seem immediately to arise, though, regarding the bargainers’ second motivation: First of all, what is the ‘moral status’ that my bargainers believe themselves to bear insofar as they are persons? What is this status, in other words, such that my bargainers are motivated to recognize it by giving expression to it within the rules of the contract they adopt? And secondly, what exactly is it for a system of morality adequately to give expression to this status? Let us briefly examine the former question before going on, in the next two chapters, to a more detailed look at how exactly my bargainers will formulate a system of morality that gives proper expression to this status.
The moral status of persons that a set of rational bargainers will be motivated to recognize and respect in the moral system they agree to adopt has, I believe, at least three distinct, yet closely related, dimensions: persons are worthy of concern, they are ends-in- themselves, and they are inviolable. To say that persons are worthy of concern is roughly to say, more simply, that they matter. Persons matter because things matter to them. As such, there is always reason to promote the welfare of a person. The idea of a person as an end-in-itself is a somewhat richer concept, one that likely overlaps somewhat with both the ideas of persons as worthy of concern and as inviolable. For our purposes here, though, the distinctive feature of persons that we will want to capture by thinking of them as ends-in-themselves is the insight that, in Frances Kamm’s words, they “have a point even if they do not bring about greater good.”13 Following Thomas Nabel here we might say that, where persons are concerned, the agent-relative, first-person point of view matters at least as much as does the agent-neutral, third-person point of view.14 And
13 14 Kamm, 355. Here I use Thomas Nagel’s terminology from The View From Nowhere: ‘agent-neutral values’ are ones that all persons equally have reason to promote. ‘Agent-relative values’, on the other hand, are those that have special reason-giving force only from the perspective of a few individuals, or one individual.