Of Metaethics and Motivation

Pamela Hieronymi

in Reasons and Recognition

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199753673
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918829 | DOI:
Of Metaethics and Motivation

Show Summary Details


In his 1982 article, T. M. Scanlon noted that, despite the widespread attention to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, the appeal of contractualism as a moral theory had been under-appreciated. It seems to me that, nearly thirty years later, despite the widespread attention to Scanlon’s work, this appeal is still largely under-appreciated. In this paper, I try to present Scanlon’s appealing answer to what he once called “the question of motivation” and the relation of this answer to the more metaethical “question of subject matter.” I then defend Scanlon’s view against various, standard objections, which, I claim, typically misunderstand it. I close by considering what it would take to wed Scanlon’s attractive answer to the question of motivation to another, non-contractualist, theory. I conclude that, even if the marriage could be arranged, a good part of the appeal of contractualism would inevitably be lost. In particular, the marriage would sacrifice the central place in Scanlon’s theory for what might be called liberty of conscience.

Keywords: contractualism; Scanlon; liberalism; ethical theory; moral theory; constructivism

Chapter.  16321 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.