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Thomas Scanlon on Reason - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 111
Rationality/Reason/Scanlon/Gaus: For Scanlon, ‘[t]he distinction between what it would be reasonable to do and what it would be rational to do is not a technical one, but a familiar one in ordinary language’ (1998(1): 192). A reasonable person does not make claims that others cannot be expected to live with, or are grossly unfair.
Rawls: Rawls has a similar idea: parties to his original position are ‘rational and reasonable’, not simply rational: ‘Persons are reasonable … when they are ready to propose principles and standards as fair terms of co-operation and to abide by them willingly, given the assurance that others will likewise do so’ (1996(2): 48). In contrast to Hobbesian contractors, Rawlsian contractors seek to respect each other’s status as free and equal moral beings (Larmore, 1996(3): ch. 6). >Contractualism/Scanlon, cf. >Person/Benn, >Person/Gewirth, >Kant/Sandel.
Kant: Kantian contractualism must build into the account some constraint that limits consideration to only justifications that all reasonable people would accept, or that none would reject.
Rawls: One way to do this is, à la Rawls, to constrain the choice situation in such a way that the rational parties are forced to advance only reasonable considerations. The nature of Rawls’s argument behind the veil of ignorance (which excludes specific knowledge about a contractor’s post-contract life and personality) is such that given the constraints on choice, the most rational choice for a contractor will model a reasonable choice for you and me.
ScanlonVsRawls: Instead, though, of building into the framework of the choice situation our understanding of the demands of reasonableness, we might, as Scanlon suggests, appeal directly to our intuitions about reasonableness in the contractarian analysis (1998(1): ch. 5).


1. Scanlon, Thomas (1998) What We Owe Each Other. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
2. Rawls, John (1996) Political Liberalism, paperback edn. New York: Columbia University Press.
3. Larmore, Charles (1996) The Morals of Modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gaus, Gerald F. 2004. „The Diversity of Comprehensive Liberalisms.“ In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Scanlon, Thomas
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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