Of metaethics and motivation: The appeal of contractualism

In R. Jay Wallace, Rahul Kumar & Samuel Richard Freeman (eds.), Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T. M. Scanlon. Oxford University Press (2011)
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In 1982, when T. M. Scanlon published “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” he noted that, despite the widespread attention to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, the appeal of contractualism as a moral theory had been under appreciated. In particular, the appeal of contractualism’s account of what he then called “moral motivation” had been under appreciated.1 It seems to me that, in the intervening quarter century, despite the widespread discussion of Scanlon’s work, the appeal of contractualism, in precisely this regard, has still been under appreciated—even though Scanlon makes what he once called “moral motivation” central, throughout his work. My first aim, then, is to do my best to draw out and make vivid this appeal. I will do this by first considering the two questions that Scanlon thinks must be addressed by any moral theory, what he once called “the question of subject matter” and “the question of motivation.” I will spend some time first locating and explicating the second question, of motivation, and then displaying Scanlon’s answer to it—it is this answer which provides contractualism with its under-appreciated appeal. I will then return to the question of subject matter—which will, by that point, have been revealed as not wholly distinct from the question of motivation, as Scanlon understands it. But it is as an answer to this question that Scanlon’s theory is most often..
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