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system of morality that maximized overall well-being, but also to formulate a set of rules that properly recognized and respected their moral status qua persons, then they would agree to a system of both genuinely deontological constraints that yielded principled exceptions when necessary and options. In short, my bargainers would adopt a genuinely moderate morality, casting serious doubt on Kagan’s claim that any appeal to the contract approach will yield only extremist morality.

The reason this contractarian account succeeds in grounding a moderate morality while (in Kagan’s mind, at least) all others fail is no doubt due to the addition of a second dimension to the bargainers’ motivation – the personhood-respecting motive. The extent to which this motive is a plausible one for rational bargainers to adopt, then, is the extent to which we might hope for a contractarian defense of moderate morality after all. To see why the bargainers’ personhood-respecting motivation provides such a promising means of founding a full-ledged moderate morality, simply consider, for example, the correspondence between each of three aspects of the moral status of persons and the three commitments which Kagan identifies as distinctive of the moderate’s position: the belief that persons are worthy of aid leads to an acceptance of the pro tanto reason; the belief that persons are ends-in-themselves leads naturally to the commitment to options; and the belief that persons are inviolable lends itself to the erection of constraints.

Frances Kamm has recently written that “we cannot permissibly ‘bargain away’ our moral status not to be treated in certain ways to increase our life prospects or minimize rights violations. Our moral status is inalienable.”40 I hope to have demonstrated that if such an insight is developed into a full-blown contractarian theory, we will have available to us the means of defending moderate morality against Kagan’s challenge to it in The Limits of Morality.


Kamm 2000, p. 218.


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