B1 Intermediate 15518 Folder Collection
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Last time we began trying to... we began by trying to navigate
our way through Kant's moral theory.
Now, fully to make sense of Kant moral theory in the groundwork
requires that we be able to answer three questions.
How can duty and autonomy go together?
What's the great dignity in answering to duty?
It would seem that these two ideas are opposed duty and autonomy.
What's Kant's answer to that?
Need someone here to speak up on Kant's behalf.
Does he have an answer?
Yes, go ahead, stand up.
Kant believes you the only act autonomously when you are pursuing
something only the name of duty and not because of your own circumstances
such as... like you're only doing something good and moral
if you're doing it because of duty and not because something
of your own personal gain.
Now why is that acting... what's your name?
My name is Matt.
Matt, why is that acting on a freedom? I hear what you're saying about duty?
Because you choose to accept those moral laws in yourself
and not brought on from outside upon onto you.
Okay, good. Because acting out of duty
- Yeah. - is following a moral law
That you impose on yourself.
that you impose on yourself. That's what makes duty
- compatible with freedom. - Yeah.
Okay, that's good Matt. That is Kant's answer. That's great.
Thank you. So, Kant's answer is it is not in so far as I am subject
to the law that I have dignity but rather in so far as with regard
to that very same law, I'm the author and I am subordinated
to that law on that ground that I took it as much as at I took it upon myself.
I willed that law. So that's why for Kant acting according
to duty and acting freely in the sense of autonomously are one and the same.
But that raises the question, how many moral laws are there?
Because if dignity consists and be governed by a law that I give myself,
what's to guarantee that my conscience will be
the same as your conscience? Who has Kant's answer to that? Yes?
Because a moral law trend is not contingent upon seductive conditions.
It would transcend all particular differences between people
and so would be a universal law and in this respect there'd only be
one moral law because it would be supreme.
Right. That's exactly right. What's your name?
Kelly. So Kelly, Kant believes that if we choose freely
out of our own consciences, the moral law we're guarantee
- to come up with one and the same moral law. - Yes.
And that's because when I choose it's not me, Michael Sandel choosing.
It's not you, Kelly choosing for yourself.
What is it exactly? Who is doing the choosing?
Who's the subject? Who is the agent? Who is doing the choosing?
- Reason? - Well reason... - Pure reason.
Pure reason and what you mean by pure reason is what exactly?
Well pure reason is like we were saying before not subject to any
external conditions that may be imposed on that side.
Good that's' great. So, the reason that does the willing,
the reason that governs my will when I will the moral law
is the same reason that operates when you choose the moral law
for yourself and that's why it's possible to act autonomously
to choose for myself, for each of us to choose for ourselves
as autonomous beings and for all of us to wind up willing the same moral law,
the categorical imperative.
But then there is one big and very difficult question left even
if you accept everything that Matt and Kelly had said so far.
How is a categorical imperative possible?
How is morality possible? To answer that question,
Kant said we need to make a distinction.
We need to make a distinction between two standpoints,
two standpoints from which we can make sense of our experience.
Let me try to explain what he means by these two standpoints.
As an object of experience, I belong to the sensible world.
There my actions are determined by the laws of nature
and by the regularities of cause and effect.
But as a subject of experience, I inhabit an intelligible world here
being independent of the laws of nature I am capable of autonomy,
capable of acting according to a law I give myself.
Now Kant says that, "Only from this second standpoint can I regard myself
as free for to be independent of determination by causes
in the sensible world is to be free."
If I were holy and empirical being as the utilitarian assume,
if I were a being holy and only subject to the deliverances of my senses,
the pain and pleasure and hunger and thirst and appetite,
if that's all there were to humanity, we wouldn't be capable of freedom,
Kant reasons because in that case every exercise of will would be
conditioned by the desire for some object.
In that case all choice would be heteronomous choice governed
by the pursued of some external end. "When we think of ourselves as free,"
Kant writes, "we transfer ourselves into the intelligible world as members
and recognize the autonomy of the will." That's the idea of the two standpoints.
So how are categorical imperatives possible? Only because the idea
of freedom makes me a member of an intelligible world?
Now Kant admits we aren't only rational beings.
We don't only inhabit the intelligible world, the realm of freedom.
If we did... if we did, then all of our actions
would invariably accord with the autonomy of the will.
But precisely because we inhabit simultaneously the two standpoints,
the two realms, the realm of freedom and the realm of necessity
precisely because we inhabit both realms there is always potentially a gap
between what we do and what we ought to do between is and ought.
Another way of putting this point and this is the point with which
Kant concludes the groundwork, morality is not empirical.
Whatever you see in the world, whatever you discover through science
can't decide moral questions.
Morality stands at a certain distance from the world,
from the empirical world.
And that's why no science could deliver moral truth.
Now I want to test Kant's moral theory with the hardest possible case,
a case that he raises, the case of the murderer at the door.
Kant says that lying is wrong. We all know that.
We've discussed why. Lying is at odds with the categorical imperative.
A French Philosopher, Benjamin Constant wrote an article responding
to the groundwork where he said, "This absolute probation online is wrong. It can't be right."
What if a murderer came to your door looking for your friend
who was hiding in your house?
And the murderer asked you point blank, "Is your friend in your house?"
Constant says, "It would be crazy to say that the moral thing to do
in that case is to tell the truth."
Constant says the murderer certainly doesn't deserve the truth
and Kant wrote to reply.
And Kant stuck by his principle that lying even to the murderer
at the door is wrong.
And the reason it's wrong, he said is once you start taking
consequences into account to carve out exceptions to the categorical imperative,
you've given up the whole moral framework.
You've become a consequentialist or maybe a rule utilitarian.
But most of you and most to our Kant's readers think there's something odd
and impossible about this answer.
I would like to try to defend Kant on this point
and then I want to see whether you think that my defense is plausible,
and I would want to defend him within the spirit of his own account of morality.
Imagine that someone comes to your door.
You were asked that question by this murder.
You are hiding your friend.
Is there a way that you could avoid telling a lie
without selling out your friend?
Does anyone have an idea of how you might be able to do that?
Yes? Stand up.
I was just going to say if I were to let my friend in my house
to hide in the first place, I'd probably make a plan with them
so I'd be like, "Hey I'll tell the murderer you're here,
but escape," and that's one of the options mentioned.
But I'm not sure that's a Kantian option. You're still lying though.
No because he's in the house but he won't be.
Oh I see. All right, good enough. One more try.
If you just say you don't know where he is because he might not
be locked in the closet.
He might have left the closet. You have no clue where he could be.
So you would say, I don't know which wouldn't actually be a lie
because you weren't at that very moment looking in the closet.
- Exactly. -So it would be strictly speaking true.
- And yet possibly deceiving, misleading. -But still true.
- What's your name? -John.
John. All right, John has... now John may be on to something.
John you're really offering us the option of a clever evasion
that is strictly speaking true.
This raises the question whether there is a moral difference between
an outright lie and a misleading truth.
From Kant's point of view there actually is a world of difference between a lie
and a misleading truth.
Why is that even though both might have the same consequences?
But then remember Kant doesn't base morality on consequences.
He bases it on formal adherence to the moral law.
Now, sometimes in ordinary life we make exceptions for the general rule against
lying with the white lie. What is a white lie?
It's a lie to make... you're well to avoid hurting someone's feelings for example.
It's a lie that we think of as justified by the consequences.
Now Kant could not endorse a white lie but perhaps he could endorse
a misleading truth.
Supposed someone gives you a tie, as a gift, and you open the box
and it's just awful. What do you say? Thank you?
You could say thank you.
But they're waiting to see what you think of it or they ask you
what do you think of it?
You could tell a white lie and say it's beautiful.
But that wouldn't be permissible from Kant's point of view.
Could you say not a white lie but a misleading truth,
you open the box and you say, "I've never seen a tie like that before.
Thank you." You shouldn't have.
That's good.
Can you think of a contemporary political leader who engaged... you can?
Who are you thinking of?
You remember the whole carefully worded denials in the
Monica Lewinsky affair of Bill Clinton.
Now, those denials actually became the subject of very explicit debate
in argument during the impeachment hearings.
Take a look at the following excerpts from Bill Clinton.
Is there something do you think morally at stake in the distinction between a lie
and a misleading carefully couched truth?
I want to say one thing to the American people.
I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again.
I did not have sexual relations with that woman Miss Lewinsky.
I never told anybody to lie not a single time, never. These allegations are false.
Did he lie to the American people when he said I never had sex with that woman?
You know, he doesn't believe he did and because of the...
Well he didn't explain it.
He did explain that, explain congressman.
What he said was to the American people that he did not have sexual relations
and I understand you're not going to like this congressman
because you will see it as a hair-splitting evasive answer.
But in his own mind his definition was not...
- Okay, I understand that argument. - Okay.
All right, so there you have the exchange.
Now at the time, you may have thought this was just a
legalistic hair-splitting exchange between a Republican who wanted to
impeach Clinton and a lawyer who is trying to defend him.
But now in the light of Kant, do you think there is something
morally at stake in the distinction between a lie and an evasion,
a true but misleading statement? I'd like to hear from defenders of Kant.
People who think there is a distinction. Are you ready to defend Kant?
Well I think when you try to say that lying and misleading truths are the same thing;
you're basing it on consequentialist argument which is that they achieve the same thing.
But the fact to the fact to the matter is you told the truth
and you intended that people would believe what you are saying
which was the truth which means it is not morally the same
as telling a lie and intending that they believe it is the truth
even though it is not true.
- Good. What's your name? - Diana.
So Diana says that Kant has a point here and it's a point that might even come
to the aid of Bill Clinton and that is... well what about that?
There's someone over here.
For Kant motivation is key, so if you give to someone
because primarily you want to feel good about yourself
Kant would say that has no moral worth. Well with this, the motivation is the same.
It's to sort of mislead someone, it's to lie, it's to sort of throw them
off the track and the motivation is the same. So there should be no difference.
Okay, good. So here isn't the motive the same, Diana?
What do you say to this argument that, well, the motive is the same in both cases
there is the attempt or at least the hope that one's pursuer will be misled?
Well that, you could look it that way but I think that the fact is
that your immediate motive is that they should believe you.
The ultimate consequence of that is that they might be deceived
and not find out what was going on.
But that your immediate motive is that they should believe you
because you're telling the truth.
- May I help a little? - Sure.
You and Kant. Why don't you say... and what's your name, I'm sorry?
Why don't you say to Wesley it's not exactly the case
that the motive in both cases is to mislead?
They're hoping, they're hoping that the person will be misled
by the statement "I don't know where they are" or "I never had sexual relations."
You're hoping that they will be misled but in the case
where you're telling the truth, you're motive is to mislead
while at the same time telling the truth and honoring the moral law
and staying within the bounds of the categorical imperative.
- I think Kant's answer would be Diana, yes? - Yes.
- You like that? - I do.
Okay. So I think Kant's answer would be unlike a falsehood,
unlike a lie, a misleading truth pays a certain homage to duty.
And the homage it pays to duty is what justifies that the work of
even the work of the evasion. Diana, yes? you like? Okay.
And so there is something, some element of respect for the dignity
of the moral law in the careful evasion because Clinton could have told an
outright lie but he didn't.
And so I think Kant's insight here is in the carefully couched but true evasion.
There is a kind of homage to the dignity of the moral law that is not present
in the outright lie and that, Wesley, is part of the motive.
It's part of the motive. Yes, I hope he will be misled.
I hope the murderer will run down the road or go to the mall looking
for my friend instead at the closet. I hope that will be the effect.
I can't control that. I can't control the consequences.
But what I can control is standing by and honoring however I pursue the ends,
I hope will unfold to do so in a way that is consistent with respect for the moral law.
Wesley, I don't think, is entirely persuaded but at least this brings out,
this discussion brings out some of what it's at stake,
what's morally at stake in Kant's notion of the categorical imperative.
As long as any effort this involved I would say that the contract is valid then.
It should take effect.
But why? What was... what morally can you point to?
For example two people agreed to be married and one suddenly
called the other in two minutes say I changed my mind.
Does the contract have obligation on both sides?
Well I am tempted to say no.
Last time we talked about Kant's categorical imperative
and we considered the way he applied the idea of the categorical imperative
to the case of lying.
I want to turn briefly to one other application of Kant's moral theory
and that's his political theory.
Now Kant says that just laws arise from a certain kind of social contract.
But this contract he tells us is of an exceptional nature.
What makes the contract exceptional is that it is not an actual contract
that happens when people come together and try to figure out
what the constitution should be.
Kant points out that the contract that generates justice
is what he calls an idea of reason.
It's not an actual contract among actual men and women gathered
in a constitutional convention. Why not?
I think Kant's reason is that actual men and women gathered in real
constitutional convention would have different interests, values, aims,
and it would also be differences of bargaining power
and differences of knowledge among them.
And so the laws that would result from their deliberations wouldn't necessarily be just,
wouldn't necessarily conform to principles of right
but would simply reflect the differences a bargaining power,
the special interests the fact that some might know more than others
about law or about politics.
So Kant says, "A contract that generates principles of right is merely an idea
of reason but it has undoubted practical reality because it can oblige
every legislator to frame his laws in such a way that they could have been
produced by the united will of the whole nation."
So Kant is a contractarian, but he doesn't trace the origin
or the rightness of law to any actual social contract.
This contrives to an obvious question.
What is the moral force of a hypothetical contract,
a contract that never happened?
That's the question we take up today but in order to investigate it,
we need to turn to a modern philosopher, John Rawls, who worked out in his book,
A Theory of Justice, in great detail and account of a hypothetical agreement
as the basis for justice.
Rawls' theory of justice in broad outline is parallel to Kant's
in two important respects.
Like Kant, Rawls was a critic of utilitarianism.
"Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice,"
Rawls' writes, "that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.
The rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining
or to the calculus social interests."
The second respect in which Rawls' theory follows Kant's is on the idea that
principles of justice properly understood can be derived from a hypothetical
social contract. Not an actual one.
And Rawls works this out in fascinating detail with the device
of what he calls the "veil of ignorance".
The way to arrive at the rights... the basic rights that we must respect,
the basic framework of rights and duties is to imagine that we were
gathered together trying to choose the principles to govern our collective lives
without knowing certain important particular fact about ourselves.
That's the idea of the veil of ignorance.
Now what would happen if we gather together just as we are here
and try to come up with principles of justice to govern our collective life?
There would be a cacophony of proposals of suggestions reflecting people's
different interests, some are strong, some are weak,
some are rich, some are poor.
So Rawls says, imagine instead that we are gathered in an original position
of equality and what assures the equality is the veil of ignorance.
Imagine that we are all behind a veil of ignorance which temporarily abstracts
from or brackets, hides from us who in particular we are.
Our race, our class, our place in society, our strengths, our weaknesses,
whether we're healthy or unhealthy, then and only then Rawls says,
the principles we would agree to would be principles of justice.
That's how the hypothetical contract works.
What is the moral force of this kind of hypothetical agreement?
Is it stronger or weaker than a real agreement, an actual social contract?
In order to answer that question, we have to look hard at the moral force
of actual contracts. There are really two questions here.
One of them is how do actual contracts bind me or obligate me?
Question number one.
And question number two, how do actual real life contracts
justify the terms that they produce?
If you think about it and this is in line with Rawls and Kant,
the answer to the second question, how do actual contracts justify
the terms that they produce, the answer is they don't.
At least not on their own.
Actual contracts are not self-sufficient moral instruments
of any actual contract or agreement.
It can always be asked, is it fair what they agreed to?
The fact of the agreement never guarantees the fairness of the agreement
and we know this by looking at our own constitutional convention.
It produced a constitution that permitted slavery to persist.
It was agreed to. It was an actual contract
but that doesn't establish that the laws agreed to all of them were just.
Well then what is the moral force of actual contracts?
To the extent that they bind us, they obligate in two ways.
Suppose, maybe here it would help to take an example.
We make an agreement, a commercial agreement.
I promise to pay you $100 if you will go harvest
and bring to me 100 lobsters. We make a deal.
You go out and harvest them and bring them to me.
I eat the lobsters, served them to my friends, and then I don't pay.
And you say, "But you're obligated."
And I say, "Why?" What do you say? "Well we had a deal."
And you benefited. You ate all those lobsters.
Well that's a pretty strong argument.
It's an argument that depends though and the fact that I benefited from your labor
So, contracts sometimes bind us in so far as they are instruments of mutual benefit.
I ate the lobsters. I owe you the $100 for having gathered them.
But suppose, now take a second case. We make this deal,
I'll pay you $100 for 100 lobsters and two minutes later,
before you've gone to any work I call you back and say
I've changed my mind. Now, there's no benefit.
There's no work on your part so there's no element of reciprocal exchange.
What about in that case, do I still owe you merely in virtue
of the fact that we had an agreement?
Who says those of you who say, yes, I still owe you? Why? Okay, stand up.
Why do I owe you? I called you back after two minutes.
You haven't done any work.
I think I spent the time and effort in drafting this contract with you
and also have emotional expectation that I go through the work.
So you took time to draft the contract but we did it very quickly.
We just chatted on the phone.
That wouldn't be a formal form of contract though.
Well I faxed at you. It only took a minute.
As long as any effort is involved, I would say that the contract is valid then.
It should take effect.
But why? What was... what morally can you point to that obligates me?
I admit that I agreed but you didn't go to any work. I didn't enjoy any benefit.
Because one might mentally go through all the work of harvesting the lobsters.
You mentally went through the work of harvesting the lobsters.
That's nothing is it? It's not much.
Is it worth $100 that you were imagining yourself going and collecting lobsters?
It may not worth $100, but it may worth something to some people.
All right, I'll give you a buck for that. But what I... so you're still pointing...
what's interesting you're still pointing to the reciprocal dimension of contracts.
You did or imagined that you did or looked forward to doing something that might be had.
For example two people agreed to be married and one suddenly calls the other
in two minutes say, I've changed my mind,
does the contract have obligation on both sides?
Nobody has done any work or nobody has benefited yet.
Well I'm tempted to say no.
- All, right. What's your name? -Julian.
Thank you Julian. All right, that was good.
Now is there anyone who has who agrees with Julian that I still owe the money?
For any other reason now I have... go ahead, stand up.
I think if you back out it sort of cheapens the institution of contracts.
Good but why? Why does it?
Well I think is kind of Kantian, but there's in almost there's a certain intrinsic value
in being able to make contracts and having, you know, knowing
people will expect that you'll go through with that.
Good, there is some... it would cheapen the whole idea
of contracts which has to do with taking in obligation on myself. Is that the idea?
Yeah, I think so.
- What's your name? - Adam.
So Adam points instead not to any reciprocal benefit or mutual exchange
but to the mere fact of the agreement itself.
We see here there are really two different ways in which
actual contracts generate obligations.
One has to do with the active consent as a voluntary act and it points...
Adam said this was a Kantian idea and I think he is right
because it points to the ideal of autonomy.
When I make a contract, the obligation is one that is self-imposed
and that carries a certain moral weight, independent of other considerations.
And then there's a second element of the moral force of contract arguments
which has to do with the sense in which actual contracts are instruments
of mutual benefit and this points toward the ideal of reciprocity
that obligation can arise, I can have an obligation to you in so far
as you do something for me.
Now, when investigating the moral force and also the moral limits of actual contracts
and here I would like to advance an argument about the moral limits
of actual contracts now that we know what moral ingredients do the work
when people come together and say, "I will do this if you do that."
I would like to argue first that the fact that two people agreed
to some exchange does not mean that the terms of their agreement are fair.
When my two sons were young they collected baseball cards and traded them.
And one was... there was a two-year aged... there is a two-year aged difference
between them and so I had to institute a rule about the trades that no trade was complete
until I had approved it and the reason is obvious.
The older one knew more about the value of these cards
and so would take advantage of the younger one.
So that's why I had to review it to make sure that the agreements were fair.
Now you may say, "Well this is paternalism."
Of course it was. That's what paternalism is for that kind of thing.
So what does this show?
What is the baseball cards example show?
The fact of an agreement is not sufficient to establish the fairness of the terms.
I read some years ago of a case in Chicago there was an elderly widow,
an 84-year-old widow named Rose who had a problem in her apartment
with a leaky toilet and she signed a contract with an unscrupulous contractor,
who offered to repair her leaky toilet in exchange for $50,000.
But she had agreed she was of sound mind,
maybe terribly naive and unfamiliar with the price of plumbing,
she had made this agreement.
Luckily, it was discovered.
She went to the bank and asked to withdraw $25,000.
And the teller said, "Why do you need all of that money for?"
And she said, "Well, I have a leaky toilet."
And the teller called authorities and they discovered this unscrupulous contractor.
Now, I suspect that even the most ardent contract carryings in the room will agree
that the fact of this woman's agreement is not a sufficient condition
of the agreement being fair.
Is there anyone who will dispute that? No one. Am I missing anyone?
Alex, where are you?
Where are you?
So, maybe there's no dispute then to my first claim that an actual agreement
is not necessary to their.. is not a sufficient condition
of there being an obligation.
I want to now make us stronger, maybe more controversial claim about
the moral limits of actual contracts that a contract or an active consent is
not only not sufficient but it's not even a necessary condition
of there being an obligation.
And the idea here is that if there is reciprocity,
if there is an exchange, then a receipt of benefits,
there can be an obligation even without an act of consent.
One great example of this involves the 18th century philosopher,
the Scottish moral philosopher David Hume.
When he was young, Hume wrote a book arguing against
Locke's idea of an original social contract.
Hume heaps scorn on his contractarian idea.
He said it was a philosophical fiction.
One of the most mysterious and incomprehensible operations
that can possibly be imagined this idea of the social contract.
Many years later when he was 62 years old, Hume had an experience
that put to the test his rejection of consent as the basis of obligation.
Hume had a house in Edinboro.
He rented to his friend James Boswell who in turn sublet it to a subtenant.
The subtenant decided that the house needed some repairs and a paint job.
He hired a contractor to do the work.
The painter did the work and sent the bill to Hume.
Hume refused to pay on the grounds that he hadn't consented.
He hadn't hired the painter. The case went to court.
The contractor said, "It's true, Hume didn't agree
but the house needed the painting and I gave it a very good one."
Hume thought this was a bad argument.
The only argument this painter makes is that the work was necessary to be done
but this is no good answer because by the same rule,
this painter may go through every house in Edinboro and do what he thinks proper
to be done without the landlord's consent and give the same reason
that the work was necessary and that the house was the better for it.
So Hume didn't like the theory that there could be obligation to repay a benefit
without consent. But the defense failed and he had to pay.
Let met give you one other example of the distinction
between the consent-based aspect of obligations and the benefit-based aspect
and how they're sometimes run together.
This is based on a personal experience.
Some years ago, I was driving across the country
with some friends and we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere
in Hammond, Indiana.
We stopped in a rest stop and got out of the car
and when we came back our car wouldn't start.
None of us knew much about cars.
We didn't really know what to do until we noticed that in the parking lot
driving up next to us was a van and on the side it said,
"Sam's mobile repair van." And out of the van came a man,
presumably Sam and he came up to us and he said, "Can I help you?
Here's how I work. I work by the hour for $50 an hour.
If I fix your car in five minutes, you owe me the $50
and if I work on your car for an hour and can't fix it,
you'll still owe me the $50."
So I said, "But what is the likelihood that you'll be able to fix the car"
and he didn't answer.
But he did start looking under the poking around the steering column.
Short time passed, he emerged from under the steering column and said,
"There's nothing wrong with the ignition system
but you still have 45 minutes left. Should I look under the hood?"
I said, "Wait a minute. I haven't hired you. We haven't made any agreement."
And then he became very angry and he said, "Do you mean to say that
if I had fixed your car while I was working under the steering column
that you wouldn't have paid me?" And I said, "That's a different question."
I didn't go into the distinction between consent based and benefit based applications.
But I think he had the intuition that if he had fixed it
while he was poking around that I would have owed him the $50.
I shared that intuition. I would have. But he inferred from that.
This was the fallacy and the reasoning that I think lay behind his anger.
He inferred from that fact that therefore implicitly we had an agreement.
But that it seems to me as a mistake.
It's a mistake that fails to recognize the distinction between
these two different aspects of contract arguments.
Yes, I agree. I would have owed him $50 if he had repaired my car during that time
not because we had made any agreement. We hadn't.
But simply because if he had fixed my car, he would have conferred on me a benefit
for which I would have owed him in the name of reciprocity and fairness.
So here's another example of the distinction between these two different
kinds of arguments, these two different aspects of the morality of contract.
Now I want to hear how many think I was in the right in that case?
That's reassuring. Is there anyone who thinks I was in the wrong?
Anyone? You do? Why? Go ahead.
Isn't the problem with this is that any benefit is inherently subjectively defined?
I mean what if you wanted your car broken and he had fixed it? I mean...
No, I didn't want it broken.
Yeah in this case. I mean...
But who would? Who would?
I don't know, someone.
I mean what if Hume, you know, what if the painter
that painted his house blue but he hated the color blue,
I mean you have to sort of define what your benefit is before the person does it.
Well all right, so what would you conclude for that though
for the larger issue here, would you conclude that
therefore consent is a necessary condition of their being an obligation?
- Absolutely. - You would. What's your name?
Because otherwise how can we know, Nate says, whether there has been
an exchange of equivalent or fair benefits unless we have the subjective evaluation
which may vary one person to the next of the situation.
All right, that's a fair challenge.
Let me put to you one other example in order to test the relation between
these two aspects of the morality of contract.
Suppose I get married and suppose I discover that after 20 years
of faithfulness on my part, every year on our trip across the country
my wife has been seeing another man, a man with a van on the Indiana toll road.
This part is completely made up by the way.
Wouldn't I have two different reasons for moral outrage?
One reason could be we had an agreement.
She broke her promise referring to the fact of her consent.
But I would also have a second ground for moral outrage having nothing to do
with the contract as such but I've been so faithful for my part.
Surely I deserve better than this.
Is this what I'm doing in return and so on?
So that would point to the element of reciprocity.
Each reason has an independent moral force.
That's the general point and you can see this if you imagine
a slight variation on the marriage case.
Suppose we haven't been married for 20 years.
Suppose we were just married and that the betrayal occurred
on the way to our honeymoon in Hammond, Indiana.
After the contract has been made, but before there is any history
of performance on my part, performance of the contract I mean,
I would still with Julian, I'd be able to say
but you promised, you promised.
That would isolate the pure element of consent,
right where there were no benefit, never mind. You get the idea.
Here's the main idea, actual contracts have their moral force
in virtue of two distinguishable ideals: autonomy and reciprocity,
but in real life every actual contract may fall short, may fail to realize
the ideals that give contracts their moral force in the first place.
The ideal of autonomy may not be realized because there may be
a difference in the bargaining power of the parties.
The ideal of reciprocity may not be realized because there may be
a difference of knowledge between the parties and so they may misidentify
what really counts as having equivalent value.
Now suppose you were to imagine a contract where the ideals
of autonomy and of reciprocity were not subject to contingency
but were guaranteed to be realized, what kind of contract would that have to be?
Imagine a contract among parties who were equal in power and knowledge
rather than unequal who are identically situated rather than differently situated?
That is the idea behind Rawls' claim that the way to think about justice
is from the standpoint of a hypothetical contract,
behind a veil of ignorance that creates the condition of equality by ruling out
or enabling us to forget for the moment the differences in power and knowledge
that could even in principle lead to unfair results.
This is why for Kant and for Rawls a hypothetical contract among equals
is the only way to think about principles of justice.
What will those principles be? That's the question we'll turn to next time.
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Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do? Episode 08: "WHATS A FAIR START?"

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hk2688hk published on October 5, 2013
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