Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy (MA)

Degree Level





Warren Herold

Committee Member

Eric Funkhouser

Second Committee Member

Tom Senor


Philosophy, religion and theology, Contractualism, Ethics, Metaethics


Contractualism is often seen as a kind of self-interested bargaining in which individuals engage to preserve their own desired outcome. If individuals are only out for themselves, then no one achieves his or her desired end. Yet, if individuals constrain some of their desires and are assured that others will do the same, then, the contractors can avoid mutual destruction. It is not hard to see why Contractualism is often viewed as a way to explain the origins of morality within civil society. In this paper, I take up a version of Contractualism espoused by Nicholas Southwood called Deliberative Contractualism. The outcome of a perfectly deliberative rational process is what grounds morality or says Southwood. I consider two objections against Southwood’s account. I first consider the way Southwood criticizes a nearby Contractualist view and demonstrate that the same criticisms that Southwood levels against that account apply to Southwood’s. I end with a modest conclusion. While I don’t resolve the problems in either account, I do think I give more clarity to the debate about what it takes to ground morality.