Williams, Scanlon, and the Normativity of Morality
Most debates about the viability of a given moral theory are won and lost, or at least brought to an end, through resort to a familiar pattern of argument: if a theory calls for that course of action, can it really claim to offer a substantively correct account of morality? This debate operates on the plausible premise that a moral theory rises and falls with the substantive correctness of its prescriptions. But this debate is also premised on the idea that moral theory has a claim to make on us. Not everyone grants this premise. Indeed, Bernard Williams’ work presents a denial of the claim that moral theory has the normative authority to demand anything of us at all. This familiar inversion of the claim that morality is overly demanding is a serious objection to the task of working out a moral theory. It suggests that interlocutors in the debate detailed above claim ground to which moral theory is not ultimately entitled. This thesis details Contractualism’s capacity to answer to this challenge. In particular, this thesis defends the idea that Contractualism offers an account of inter-personal morality that is substantively correct and accessible to integrated agents. Contractualism’s account of inter-personal wrongness, and the powerful reasons we have to avoid wronging others, satisfies the twin conditions of substantive correctness and normative coherence.