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Can morality be explained as a social contract?


Lena Dominici


In this paper, I argue that the social contract cannot explain the whole of morality since it has problematic implications. I will consider John Rawls' Theory of Justice, one of the latest and most influential versions of social contract theory. The argument I defend will unfold as such : if all of morality is only seen as an agreement made by hypothetical rational and self-interested contractors, then non-rational beings cannot enter such agreements and have no moral standing of their own right.

Consequently, according to contractualism, we have no moral obligation regarding non-rational animals and it is not wrong to torture them. Yet, it is wrong to torture animals, therefore the social contract theory adopts a too narrow view of morality. Finally, I consider three major attempts to include animals in the social contract theory, and show that they fail.

How to Cite: Dominici, L., 2017. Can morality be explained as a social contract?. Rerum Causae, 9(2), pp.37–48.
Published on 01 Jul 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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