Scanlon Solutions

Written on 04.10.2019 21:39 by Sarah Sterz

Upon your requests, we uploaded another set of solutions that shows you how to solve an exercise that asks you for an application of our simplified form of Scanlon's contractualism. You can find it under S06-E2 Deontology.

A few additional remarks on Scanlon:

Firstly, as I said during the practices, we do not expect you to be able to apply Scanlon’s contracutalism in a way that Scanlon himself would. What you were presented with in the lecture is a simplified version of Scanlon that leaves some room for interpretation. What we want you to do is to apply the theory reasonably and sensibly fill in the gaps if you come across a case where the theory from the lecture leaves open some details. So, what you are to do is not to apply the theory in every detail as it is presented in What We Owe To Each Other, but you are to show that you can reasonably apply and extrapolate the theory that was given to you. (This, however, does not mean that you should deviate from the given theory, but you only should fill in gaps.)

Secondly, a way that often works for showing that ϕing is wrong for an agent is by proof of contradiction:

  1. Assume that there is a set of principles that nobody can reasonably reject that allows ϕing.
  2. Single out the person P on whom the set places the greatest burden, i.e. the person that is most negatively affected by the agent’s ϕing.
  3. Show that there is nobody else who has a greater burden than P if P rejects the set, i.e. that nobody is more negatively affected if the agent does not ϕ.
  4. You showed that P can reasonably reject all principles that allow the agent to ϕ and you therefore can conclude that ϕing is wrong for the agent.

And, thirdly: The theory is about whether someone can reasonably reject a set of principles. This is not the same as whether

  • someone does reasonably reject a set of principles,
  • someone can reject a set of principles, or
  • someone can reasonably reject a principle.

Have a good exam preparation and do not despair over Scanlon's contractualism! :)


PS: As said during the lecture, the forum is unmoderated. It is only meant as an easy way to communicate with your fellow students, but no team members are present there. If you have any questions, please write me an email. (If you want to share my answer with your fellow students, please feel free to post it in the forum!)

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