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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

It seems odd that the method of determination used by a myriad of social contractarian philosophers for what is right is what a rational actor would choose, absent any involvement in the society in some cases. I don't see how they can really say this.In 16th century Japan (and to a certain extent, still today) it would be considered completely irrational for someone to want to hold for equal rights for every person and the free determination of the leader of the country. It would amount, among other things, to blasphemy. In the Byzantine empire, or even modern day Israel or Saudi Arabia to a degree, it would be considered irrational to say that no religion should take precidence. The point being - rationality is defined differently, sometimes radically so, across time and space - so this abstract individual, upon whom we are basing all permissable coercion on the part of the government, is just as much a product of the place and time as an actual person. This doesn't seem to me like a small problem, it undermines most of social contractarian theory, if true, becuase then it reduces quite nicely to "Anything which is a social norm is okay to force people to adhere to, as long as it truly is a social norm." If you're constructing an immaterial justification for government, it strikes me that "A government can do whatever it wants as long as people sort of agree with it in principle" is a poor one.

cranked out at 10:03 PM | |

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