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Contractualism, Reciprocity, Compensation

by David Alm

I argue that it is not possible to give an adequate account, within a Scanlon-style contractualist moral theory of the moral duties to reciprocate benefits one has received from others and to compensate harms one has done to others. The problem, very simply put, is that there is no room within such a theory for the fact that the content of these obligations must be proportionate to the value of the actions that bring them into being in the first place. As a consequence, I point to a wider a moral about contractualism. This is that while that doctrine may provide an adequate account of obligations that we have to others on account simply of their status as persons, it cannot handle obligations that arise as a response to actions that these others, or we ourselves, have performed.

ISSN 1559-3061
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