Social Contract, Extended Goodness, and Moral Disagreement
This article discusses the role played by interpersonal comparisons (of utility or goodness) in matters of justice and equity. The role of such interpersonal comparisons has initially been made explicit in the context of social choice theory through the concept of extended preferences. Social choice theorists have generally claimed that extended preferences should be taken as being uniform across a population. Three related claims are made within this perspective. First, though it is sometimes opposed to social choice theory, the social contract approach may also consider the possibility of interpersonal comparisons. This is due to the fact that justice principles may be partially justified on a teleological basis. Second, searching for the uniformity of interpersonal comparisons is both hopeless and useless. In particular, moral disagreement does not originate in the absence of such uniformity. Third, interpersonal comparisons should be accounted for both in social choice and social contract theories in terms of sympathetic identification based on reciprocal respect and tolerance, where each person’s conception of the good partially takes care of others’ good. From the moral point of view, any person’s conception of the good should thus be ‘extended’ to others’ personal conceptions. This extension is, however, limited due to the inherent limitations in sympathetic identification and is a long way from guaranteeing the uniformity assumed by social choice theorists.