Choice and justification in social contract theories / Douglas Paletta.

Paletta, Douglas.
vii, 219 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- Philosophy.
Philosophy -- Penn dissertations.
Social contract arguments frequently rely on non-contractual considerations to justify principles or types of government. Either, the moral assumptions that structure a contractarian's bargaining position are derived from a non-contractual basis or those moral assumptions, and not hypothetical agreement, do the justificatory work. These problems are formal. If correct, they show that the structure of contractarian justification necessarily relies on a non-contractual basis. My dissertation addresses whether social contract arguments can avoid problematically relying on non- contractual considerations and, if so, how?
I answer these questions by looking past particular social contract theories and focusing on the structural relationship between the different elements of social contract arguments. To overcome the formal challenges, social contract theorists must present an argument that structurally meets three criteria. First, the argument must be independently significant and avoid relying on non-contractual moral assumptions. Second, insofar as the argument uses moral assumptions, the argument should, in principle, provide some warrant for them. Doing so ensures that contract argument does not rest on unlicensed moral assumptions. Finally, invoking the social contract argument must be important given how the argument licenses its conclusions. If another type of argument can justify moral principles on the same basis without invoking a social contract, the social contract argument is irrelevant.
I develop an independent type of social contract argument that structurally affords hypothetical choices non-derivative, moral significance and justifies principles in terms of them. I do so by reinterpreting two central elements of the structure of social contract arguments. First, I challenge the traditional understanding of how choices in the bargaining position relate to the assumptions structuring that position. Rather than view the moral assumptions as constraining otherwise insignificant hypothetical choices, I argue the moral assumptions constitute the significance of those choices. The structuring assumptions ensure the hypothetical choices represent choosing in a morally significant way. Second, in contrast to the traditional top-down structure of the argument, I defend a coherentist understanding of social contract arguments where agreement in the bargaining stage serves as the standard of coherence.
Adviser: Samuel Freeman.
Thesis (Ph.D. in Philosophy) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2010.
Includes bibliographical references.
Freeman, Samuel, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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