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PP 110 - contractarianism.docx

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Ashwani Peetush

Contractarianism  Either morality is objective or it is subjective. Since it is not objective it must be subjective  Response: False Dilemma o Objective truth: a truth that is entirely independent of particular minds  Not simply a matter of opinion  Ex. “tomatoes are red” o Subjective truth: a truth that is entirely dependent on a particular mind  Truth of statement is dependent of one’s taste  Ex. “I love tomatoes” o Intersubjective truth: a truth which is not dependent on any particular mind  Although, it is dependent on minds  Moral judgments/values express truths of the third kind  Ex. “murder is bad, slavery is wrong, torture is wrong, etc.”  Statements are objective or subjective o Moral statements are not objective o Therefore, moral statements are subjective o *this statement limits the range of choices to only 2 – unfair (FALSE DILEMMA)  People can argue that there are intersubjective statements (ex. ethical statements)  Morality depends upon human beings – truths about how we ought to live together o Rules about social interaction – how we interact  According to contract theory, morals are simply rules that rational agents/people agree to for the sake of mutual self-benefits o Ex. driving rules are established where people obey them – a certain amount of freedom is given up, but everyone benefits from cooperation  If no one followed it, it results in chaos Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679): The Social Contract  One of the main thinkers that outlined what the social contract was  Believes we are all selfish and destructive by nature  Morality is simply the set of rules that rational (self-interested) agents would agree to for the sake of mutual benefit (very powerful theory) o Parties are rational (self-interested, maximizing their own good) o Rules are of mutual benefit to all parties involved  Let’s imagine a place with no institution, laws, rules – state of nature o We would be living in a chaotic environment because everyone would act according to self-interest (do not have to follow rules)  Why? Because people find themselves in certain conditions  The State of Nature: conditions of human existence in a pre-ethical/legal/political society o Equality of Need: we all need same things (psychological, physical, emotional needs) o Scarcity: not enough to go around – people compete for scarce resources o Equality of Power – no one prevails forever  people can harm each other because they are roughly the same as you – therefore can threaten you, as you can threaten them  leads to state of chaos o Limited Sympathy o ***living in this society makes it hard for you to get what you need  Living in a condition full of fear – society cannot exist for too long  To solve this problem: people get together and come up with certain rules that are enforceable and to their mutual advantage  State of Nature will lead to State of War (chaos) o To solve: people have to give up some freedom to gain more freedom  Ex. I will give up my power to hurt you as long as you do the same  We come together and bargain certain agreements – this advantages those contracting to cooperate (not everyone)  The cost of non-cooperation is higher than the cost of cooperation o You will lose much more by not signing up to the contract than you will by signing up the contract  These rules need to be enforceable – we need an authority to ensure everyone keeps their contract (promises) o If not enforced – chaos occurs  State of War o Everyone against everyone else  Civil Society: to leave this situation: social cooperation and division of labour  Two essential pre-conditions: 1. Everyone must be willing to give up force to get what they want 2. Everyone must keep their contracts o Morality then? The system of rules you contract for the sake of your self-interest. I do the same o Summary: people are motivated to leave the state of nature to cooperate with others because the cost of non-cooperation is higher than that of cooperation o That is, it is in their self-interest to be cooperative, given that others pose a threat to them since they are their equals  On the contract model, morality can be described as the outcome of a bargaining situation where your interests are affected by not only what you do, but by what others do  Morality is a set of rules that I agree to for the sake of “me”  That is, since they are your rough equals, they pose potential threat to your interests  Example: traffic o Even if you follow the rules but others don’t, you can still be hurt o Our interests are affected by others o Cost of non-cooperation is much higher than cooperation  Rational agent maximizes his or her own good The Prisoner’s Dilemma (FINAL EXAM)  Imagine two Prisoners in a totalitarian state simply for the sake of appeasement of crowd (they do not care who actually did it) o If Smith does not confess, but you confess and testify against him, you are released. Smith in for 10 years o If Smith confesses and you do not; you will be in for 10 years. Smith released o
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