Naturalism and Moral Conventionalism
A Critical Appraisal of Binmore’s Account of Fairness
Keywords:Binmore, moral naturalism, moral conventionalism, original position, fairness
This article provides a critical examination of Ken Binmore’s theory of the social contract in light of philosophical discussions about moral naturalism and moral conventionalism. Binmore’s account builds on the popular philosophical device of the original position but gives it a naturalistic twist. I argue that this makes it vulnerable to moral skepticism. I explore a possible answer to the moral skeptic’s challenge, building on the fact that Binmore’s account displays a variant of moral conventionalism. I ultimately conclude however that the conventionalist answer leads to a purely behaviorist view of morality, which implies that there is nothing special about morality and fairness norms. I propose alternative interpretations of conventionalism. These accounts escape most of the difficulties because they place emphasis on the reasons that establish a moral convention.