Why Should I Be Moral

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Social Contract Theory

  • Hobbes' social contract theory sees morality as being in a our long term self-interest
  • If we are moral people will treat us in the same way in return
  • Morality is a contract in which we will all benefit
  • Morality is a man-made thing so moral rules are whatever we make them
  • Hobbes claims that without a social contract there would be a 'war of all against all' and life would be 'nasty, brutish and short'


  • Straight forward, simple theory. We all understand contracts as a normal part of everyday life and so it seems reasonable to think morality works in this way too.
  • Kant- Criticised by his claim that the only moral actions are those motivated by duty. This means that an action done as part of a social contract is motivated by self-interest so ceases to be moral at all
  • Free Rider Problem- own self interest to get away with breaking the agreement if everyone else is being moral. You can gain an advantage over everyone else as long as you aren't caught.
  • Easier for those in a position of power to be moral according to the contract as they have no reason to breach the contract 

Virtue Approach

  • Being moral through developing virtues and so become more fulfilled.
  • Aristotle:
    • Virtue is a disposition to behaving a positive way willingly with no alterior motives
    • The doctrine of the mean - , and through good judgement and reasoning we can establish the right balance. For example, courage falls between cowardice and foolhardiness
    • Function of human beings is to reason and function makes us fulfilled. Only through reason can be flourish
    • Eudemonia is the goal of life which is achieved through the development of our virtues and talents so we can flourish
  • Plato
    • Three parts to the soul - Reason, appetite and will
    • Each part of the soul has a counterpart - Wisdom for reason; temperance…


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