a1 Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis
In Morals By Agreement, David Gauthier concludes that under certain conditions it is rational for an agent to be disposed to choose in accordance with a fair cooperative scheme rather than to choose the course of action that maximizes his utility. This is only one of a number of important claims advanced in that book. In particular, he also propounds a distinctive view concerning what counts as a fair cooperative arrangement. The thesis concerning the rationality of adopting a cooperative disposition is, however, logically independent of his substantive view of a fair cooperative scheme and is itself central to the project as a whole. Gauthier's concern is to establish that certain moral principles are those that fully rational, self-interested persons would agree to take as regulative of their dealings with one another – that a contractarian approach, in this sense, can provide an adequate basis for a theory of morality.
* An earlier version of this paper was presented at a symposium in honor of the publication of David Gauthier's book, Morals By Agreement, at the 1986 Meeting of die Central Division of the American Philosophical Association. I am indebted to Gauthier himself, Geoffrey Sayre McCord, David Falk and other members of die Triangle Workshop on Ethics (Chapel Hill, NC), and an anonymous referee, for very helpful comments.