Morality as a Social Contract

Notes for the AQA specification for AS Philosophy Module 1. 

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Morality as a Social Contract
Identify: Morality as a conventional agreement for our mutual advantage.
Point Rejoinder Rejoinder
1.Simplicity and Obviousness: Once we are acquainted with SC we see Kant's theory seems to make sense but the SC is actually in place.
we are clearly motivated by self bigger picture, and desire more than Tacit agreement (Locke) so if we wanted to leave we could but all
interest, we don't ask `Why survival and happiness. Is this all morality societies seem to have moral rules e.g. Native Americans.
should I pursue my self interest?' can amount to? Are there not other moral
Requires no further justification. motivations, if we discard self interest (c.f.
Our basic desire is to stay alive Kant). No room for principles e.g. not `Do
and free of pain ­ SC can not kill' but `Do not kill if you want to not be
provide this. killed yourself' (hypothetical imperative).
2. As naturally self interested this Prisoner's dilemma ­ this requires other's But we will honor contract as the benefits of selflessness are
is the only good we can find, to trust and honesty i.e. how do we know that greater than the benefits of selfishness in social groups e.g. building
avoid censure. Enlightened others' are cooperating/honoring the a house. Also prisoner's dilemma is best for both if we cooperate.
egoism c.f. Plato's Callicles'. We contract? SC only works and we only both Barry confesses Barry doesn't
need others' cooperation e.g. benefit if we are both honest. confess
house. Adam confesses Both get 7 years Adam free, barry
10 years
Adam doesn't Adam Gets 10 years, Both get 2 years
confess Barry free
3. Implication of SC affects us It is not inclusive as it leaves out weaker Another problem ­ if weaker members suffer then those who can
all, it is inclusive e.g. the members of society e.g. disabled, children, `bring to the table' benefit more. Once the contract is set up it's best
agreement not to kill benefits animals etc. They can't bring anything to the to act immorally when everyone else is acting morally (Free Rider).
everyone who is not killed. table so we have no reason to include them. If I can avoid punishment my self interest benefits most when I am
Agreement must be fair (Kant's `a means to an end'). immoral e.g. stealing.
otherwise we wouldn't
Explain: Rational egoism: we realize that it is in our self interest to not be harmed by others but we don't want to be constrained so we agree to
not harm others so they wont harm us ­ our self interest suffers a little but overall is the best option to avoid Hobbes' state of nature "the life of a
man would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

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Conclusion: If SC theory is right then there is nothing immoral about harming others, it's other imprudent. But we are capable of caring for
others' and can be motivated by this (Hume) e.g. charity workers, soldiers etc., `Why should I be moral?' `To fulfill self interest' `Why should I
fulfill self interest?'. Also SC theory offers no independent justification for moral behavior e.g.…read more


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