Constructing the original position 2: Initial Choice Situations
A lot of things have happenned since the previous post and the post which I wanted to put up 4 days ago got delayed. There was a series of tragedies and the GRE caught up with me. There seems to be sufficient distance now for me to talk political philosophy and I just took my GRE. So, now, I will post this next overdue section of the series of posts.
Previously, I established that
insofar that a system of social rules benefits some member of society, there is a prima facie moral reason in favour of that system.
Where the term benefit is used to refer to any positively valenced thing we think we should get from engaging in social cooperation. i.e. by benefits I mean merely the “proper objects of social coordination” whatever that may turn out to be. The benefit could even be something like the opportunity or means to fulfill one’s antecedent moral duty or the protection or respecting of one’s natural moral rights.*
In this episode, we explore the argument as to why we should employ an initial contract or choice situation:
We can also note that insofar as an object O contains some feature F which a person P prefers, that provides him with prima facie reason to prefer O. For any set of O-like objects that contain F-like features, the object that is ultimately chosen by some ideally rational person P is the object in which the balance of features F are optimum in that set.
Presumably, if we designated F to be the benefit and O to be a system of rules, then a rational person prima facie prefers systems of rules for which there are prima facie moral reasons in favour of. If we were to then set up an initial contract situation where the parties who were doing the choosing are P-like, the system of rules they will choose if they were rational would be the system there are the most moral reasons in favour of. This is not to say that any such device will do, only that there is some kind of initial choice/ contract situation such that the output of the choice or contract situation is the most just (most morally justified) system of rules.
At this point, it seems as if the contract device, if set up correctly would deliver the correct kinds of inferences that can be made from the premises of a moral theory. But this transformation seems to be a terribly complicated step. One could ask why we could go through the bother of complicating theories of social morality in this way. The key benefit of transforming a theory of social morality into a contract device is that this allows us to use the robust analytic framework of rational choice theory to make correct inferences. We ordinarily have trouble figuring out how reasons interact with one another. We often let our intuitions dominate our inferences. However, the analytic framework for rational choice theory is sufficiently robust** that we can show how to make a valid inference given a collection of prima facie reasons.
*This is just to forestall any objections that I may be begging the question in favour of some kind of consequentialism.
**since we are merely trying to model reasons and not predict actual behaviour, the usual criticisms do not apply.