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ScanlonDraft - Scott M Welch April 3 2007 Dr Jeffrey Kinlaw...

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Scott M. Welch April 3, 2007 Dr. Jeffrey Kinlaw Law and Obligation Contractualism: The Scanlon Approach In Thomas Scanlon’s, What We Owe to Each Other , he designs a view of contractualism that resembles several other well known philosophies on the subject. It is my belief that Scanlon has approached the issue of contractualism in a way that takes these other accounts and produces an easier to live by criteria for those who choose to live by them. This essay will focus on Scanlon’s theory for contractualism by presenting some basic groundwork, from which he builds his theory on, then a synopsis of his theory will be offered, and it will conclude with suggestions on where I believe this theory takes us. In, What We Owe to Each Other , Scanlon takes the time to develop a moral theory in order to set up a foundation for his transition into the realm of social contracts. He devises a fairly open view of moral theory, which consists of several major concepts that are vital to his main effort in the book. I will take the time to highlight three major points of this argument in order to provide a foundation for the discussion on Scanlon’s approach to contractualism. He develops a moral theory that allows individuals a lot of maneuverability within the contractual relationship. The key points I wish to draw attention to are, reasons, values, and well-being. Scanlon devotes a chapter to each
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position; however, for the purpose of this paper, a sentence or two about each should be sufficient. His first argument is on the topic of reasons, he says that they are “crucial to an adequate description of the structure of our own practical reasoning and also to our relations with others, as rational creatures who recognize many of the same reasons and can recognize the value of each other.” (Pg. 77) This statement sums up Scanlon’s position that a strict adherence to reason for action as a necessity and the idea that desires are basic motivators, are false. He advances some of these ideas in the second chapter as he discusses the roles of values. He argues against the way value is most often represented in the philosophical context, as associated with “the good.” Scanlon believes that value is a broader concept and it must relate, in addition to right and wrong, “excellences in art, science… personal relations such as love and friendship; and the value of human life.” (Pg. 79) Finally, in the third chapter Scanlon introduces the aspect of well-being in moral discourse. His aim is to open up the borders from typical philosophical debate and to reject the idea of well-being as an ultimate good. He states in the conclusion of the third chapter, “not all values would be reducible to the value of well-being. So the values that properly guide us remain plural, and are not exclusively teleological.” (Pg. 143) I realize that these are very short summaries of the points Scanlon is covering, however, I believe that this is an efficient account of what he is presenting to the reader in order to move us on to the larger problem of a social contract.
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