Nicholas Southwood: Contractualism and the Foundations of Morality
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In the contemporary philosophical debate, there are two opposing contractualist views. On the one side, Hobbesian contractualisms take moral principles as side-constraints to redress the failures of the interaction among self-interested individuals. On the other, Kantian versions of the social contract ground morality on an impartial and moralized viewpoint. In his recent Contractualism and the Foundations of Morality, Nicholas Southwood proposes a third and novel form of contractualism, with the aim to overcome the “implausibly personal and partial characterization of the moral point of view” of Hobbesian positions, as well as the “excessively substantive conception of practical reason” of Kantian theories (86).
On Southwood’s view, perfectly rational individuals—who see themselves as “simultaneously co-legislator and co-subject among individuals with whom one shares an authority as a fellow deliberative agent” (126)—agree upon a “common code” to live by, which is “a relatively...