Session5Gauthier

Session5Gauthier - Political Contractarianism DAVID...

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Unformatted text preview: Political Contractarianism DAVID GAUTHIER Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh I want to enquire into the relationship between the normative claims of a society and the normative stances of its members. I shall develop a contractarian perspective, as the only one available to persons who may neither expect nor require their fellows to share their own orientation to values and norms. Although I only touch on these matters here, I hope to contribute to an interpretation of the clauses on the establishment and exercise of religion in the First Amendment to the United States constitution, and to suggest guidelines for determining rights and duties in becoming and being a parent. More generally, I offer answers to certain questions about how social practices and institutions may be justified in a democratic society. 1. T o begin, I shall sketch the contractarian perspective. The contractarian proposes a mode of justification for norms governing interaction. Think of these norms as at once enabling and limiting. They define practices that expand the prospects of individuals, not only instrumentally in facilitating the attainment of independently established ends, but also intrinsically in giving rise to quite new ends. But the norms are also limiting, again not only instrumentally in constraining the way in which individuals may attain their own ends, but also intrinsically in excluding possible practices and the ends attainable through them. The contractarian begins from a baseline that is free of all such practices, of all social enabling and limiting. Justification is then addressed to the individual agents, who are characterized as and only as rational deliberators. In this very important sense, contractarianism expresses normative individualism. The contractarian test applied to a norm or set of norms is simply whether, were the persons within the scope of the norm or set of norms to be in a position to determine their conditions of interaction, it would then make sense for each of them, deliberating rationally, to agree on such conditions, and to include the norm or set of norms among the agreed conditions. Social institutions and practices, the opportunities and limitations, the rights and duties, that they create are thus seen by the contractarian as justifiable in terms of a hypothetical agreement, and indeed only in such terms. Without supposing that the appeal to The Journal of Political Philosophy: Volume 5, Number 2, 1997, pp. 132148 # David Gauthier, 1997. hypothetical agreement is widely available for justificatory purposes, the contractarian maintains that it offers the best possible defence of a system that normatively regulates the interactions of individuals when some such system would be beneficial to everyone, but any actual system must largely pre-exist the real persons who enjoy its benefits and fall under its constraints....
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This note was uploaded on 03/06/2012 for the course DEBA 101 taught by Professor Bob during the Spring '12 term at Colby-Sawyer.

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Session5Gauthier - Political Contractarianism DAVID...

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