Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Constrained Maximization and Resolute Choice*

Edward F. McClennena1

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.