Contracts, Promises and the Demands of Moral Agency
CURRENT LEGAL ISSUES: LAW & PHILOSOPHY, Freeman & Harrison, eds., Oxford University Press, 2007
18 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2008
Date Written: November 20, 2007
If we set out to justify our contract law to a moral agent, what kind of story should we be aiming to provide? Or, to sharpen the question, if we cast a critical eye on our contract law, what should we take as its proper moral measure? Should we test contract law for its effectiveness in protecting the moral rights of promisees and enforcing the moral duties of promisors? Should we test it for its ability to make efficient use of the community's resources? Should we test it for its ability to bring about just distributions? Or should we test for its ability to make us more autonomous?
As these different views claim the same justificatory space, moral agents intent on scrutinizing contract law face a problem of 'perspective' at the start of their enquiry. My aim in this paper is to discuss how general moral theory, and our intuitions about decent moral agency and responsibility in particular, might help moral agents respond to this problem. Taking issue with Seana Shiffrin's recent account, I argue that the appeal to moral agency and responsibility underdetermines the most pressing aspects of that problem.
Keywords: contract, promise, law, morality, agency, responsibility
JEL Classification: K10, K12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation