serving their original purpose; in fact, they are acting directly contrary to their original purpose. Thus, the bargainers’ first motive will lead them to adopt a sort of ‘defeasibility clause’ to complement the restrictions they’ve already adopted, and to address just this concern. Such a clause will allow them to override the restrictions anytime doing so is a necessary means to avoiding the dangers uniquely posed by free-riders.
As it emerges from the bargainers’ first motive, though, this ‘defeasibility clause’ would appear to permit intuitively impermissible exceptions. However, the clause takes on additional features when it is modified so as also to fit the bargainers’ second motivation. The personhood-respecting motive legislates against seemingly impermissible exceptions (for example, the exception to the restriction on killing others required in the case of ‘Transplant.’16) while still allowing for exceptions in cases of, for example, self-defense. The result of all this, then, is that we see that the bargainers’ twofold motivation will lead them to adopt genuinely deontological constraints and a ‘defeasibility clause’ that generates the principled exceptions that would seem to be an integral part of any worthwhile system of morality. I will then conclude the chapter with a brief discussion of thresholds, which constitute a further modification to the constraints. I. The self-interest-maximizing motive and restrictions on the pursuit of individual good
Let us start by examining the bargainers’ first motivation – their desire to maximize self-interest. It has long been the hallmark of social contract theories that they demonstrate that a set of rational bargainers will accept a set of advantage-overriding restrictions on their behavior because, ultimately, accepting these restrictions is in their best self-interest. As David Gauthier puts the point, “Duty overrides advantage, but the acceptance of duty is truly advantageous.”17 This feature of contractarian thought is fairly obvious and standard, and can easily be illustrated by the example of the “Prisoners’ Dilemma.”
possible that these prohibitions too may be overridden (in threshold circumstances, for example), they cannot be overridden just anytime doing so will result in the greater good.
16 ‘Transplant’: the example comes from Phillipa Foot, and asks us to imagine a scenario wherein a relatively healthy, innocent hospital patient is sacrificed so that his organs may be re-distributed to save the lives of five otherwise terminally ill patients.
Gauthier, David. Morals By Agreement. New York: Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986. p. 2.