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The Fundamentals of Ethics

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Contractarianism was born as a political theory and developed into a theory of morality.  This theory is one of the attempts to understand what kind of society we have to live in happily. Contractarianism presents us some kind of “social contract with the rules that free, equal and rational people would accept as the basis of a cooperative life together” (Shafer-Landau 178). “Rules of cooperation must be designed to benefit everyone not just few” (Shafer-Landau 184). The promise of social contract is peace and stability. Social contract theorists assume that people naturally are selfish and self-interested. Everyone wants to be at the top, to be the best, to get more and more. But if one person gets more, another person will get less. Theorists suggest that everyone should limit his self-interest and desire to get more for getting peaceful and stable society. According to contractarianism, except beneficial rules that require cooperation and punish betrayal, we need an enforcer who ensures that these rules are obeyed. An enforcer is a powerful person who can provide obedience and excellent reason to keep the word. So, in other words, every society needs its central authority, which is chosen by rational people.

There are some reasons to accept this view. One of them is justification of every moral rule. I suggest that there could be disagreement in the opinions of different people, but some theorists insist that no disagreement could be among the rational people. Everyone will obey the rules that are moral and show benefits for the person.  Contractarianism also explains why it is sometimes acceptable to break moral rules.  It is written that you should follow moral rules “…so long as others are obeying these rules as well “(Shafer-Landau 185). It means, for example, you shouldn’t be the only taxpayer in the country. It is made for protecting people. Social contract theorists also explain the situation when people can revolt against government and their actions won’t be suggested immoral.  If government acts immorally and the law doesn’t reflect moral rules that free, equal and rational people would accept, nonviolent revolt will be suggested acceptable and rational.

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In my opinion this theory is interesting and worth an attention but it looks like Utopia. People can’t be equal. As it was said people are naturally competitive, everyone has its own talents and desires. If people limit their abilities to do something better, progress will stop in our society. Of course, cooperation is important but it is useful when people want to achieve similar goal and share the success. In this condition they do their best in cooperation besides limiting their desires. To my mind, theory will work, if equality is provided in separate fields.

Also this view has many inaccuracies. For example, there is no clear answer on the question about possible disagreement among contractors. Some theorists insist that all contractors are rational and equal in opinions, but I can’t imagine this situation because all people are different. Also I’m not sure that the end of the phrase “ …so long as others are obeying these rules as well “  (Shafer-Landau 185) wouldn’t be used as the chance to escape the punishment for breaking the word and disobedience. And reading this theory, I have one question: how to guess who is right in his morality? How to differ fair actions from unfair ones, remembering that everyone has its own opinion?

In conclusion, I want to mention that this theory has an excellent original idea of equality and morality, but I provided some arguments above why it wouldn’t work in our society.

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