David Gauthier's contractarian moral theory
Can we derive and internalise moral rules from pure rational agency. If such a project is possible then a contractarian moral theory is conceivable. Restricting the field of morality to social co-operation, David Gauthier is probably the preeminent 20th century champion of such a theory from his Morals by Agreement, published in 1986, to his most recent writings. The purpose of this thesis is present, analyse and argue against his project. The main argument developed is that a pre-conception of morality cripples his rational calculus and that moral rules cannot be internalised through rational calculus alone. In the first part of the thesis, I give full voice to Gauthier. His work from 1963 to 1986 is presented and interpreted. In particular, in the first chapter I describe how, from his Hobbesian background and his research on practical rationality, Gauthier was led to develop a contractarian moral theory. Chapter two is then fully dedicated to developing the core features of Morals by Agreement, providing an interpretation that highlights its main strengths and weaknesses. Gauthier's work has been extensively commented upon since 1986 and Gauthier actively participated in the debates generated by his writings. Although he stopped defending his Morals by Agreement from 1993, he remained faithful to the idea of a contractarian moral theory. In the second part of the thesis, I first review in chapter three the criticisms made of Morals by Agreement as well as Gauthier's responses to them. By 1993, he had abandoned several key points of his theory. However, inspired by his Hobbesian background (chapter six), and within the framework of McClennen's concept of resoluteness (chapter five), Gauthier renewed his attempt to derive co-operation from pure rational agency. Chapter seven is a discussion of this latest attempt.