If there is one aspect of David Gauthier's program for a contractualist morality that has been most sceptically received, it is his view that instrumentally rational agents would choose to adopt a disposition that would in turn constrain their future choices. Instead of remaining “straightforward maximizers” caught in a suboptimal state of nature, they would become “constrained maximizers” who could avoid prisoner's dilemmas (PDs) by engaging in conditional co-operation. Apart from the fact that Gauthier's entirely prescriptive orientation leads him to omit any specification of the mechanism through which this might be accomplished, serious doubts have been raised about the adequacy of the argument that he offers in support of adopting constrained maximization.
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