Per Algander: “Contractualism, hard cases, and justification to others”

  • Date: –13:00
  • Location: Zoom (contact Erik Carlson for link)
  • Organiser: Department of Philosophy
  • Contact person: Erik Carlson
  • Seminarium

Per Algander, Umeå University: “Contractualism, hard cases, and justification to others”


Abstract
In contemporary debates on contractualism the view is sometimes described in two different ways. On the “received view”, an act is wrong if and only if it is disallowed by principles which no one could reasonably reject. On the “alternative view”, an act is wrong if and only if there is no principle which licenses the act which no one could reasonably reject. I argue that these views differ in “hard cases”; cases where prima facie every principle for action can be reasonably rejected by someone. Issues concerning climate change and intergenerational justice are plausible examples of hard cases. In these cases different values and interests are at stake and it seems that we are in the unfortunate position of not having an option which is backed by principles which no one can reasonably reject. On the received view every act would be permissible in hard cases while on the alternative view every act would be impermissible. This, I claim, reveals a flaw in the received view: the received view is at odds with the idea that morality is about being able to justify one's actions to others. This idea is often considered to be the compelling idea behind contractualism and the alternative view does a better job of capturing it.