We learned in earlier discussions that according to Aristotle and Bentham,

We learned in earlier discussions that according to Aristotle and Bentham,

one’s happiness was the highest goal. Enter social contract. How does one ensure

one’s self-interest when one has to compromise with another to achieve the goal?

David Gauthier proposes that it is possible, offering the Prisoner’s Dilemma as

an example.

According to the story of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, two people have been

brought in for questioning, conducted separately, about a crime they are

suspected to have committed. The police have solid evidence of a lesser crime

that they committed, but need confessions in order to convict them on more

serious charges. Each prisoner is told that if she cooperates with the police by

informing on the other prisoner, then she will be rewarded by receiving a

relatively light sentence of one year in prison, whereas her cohort will go to

prison for ten years. If they both remain silent, then there will be no such

rewards, and they can each expect to receive moderate sentences of two years.

And if they both cooperate with police by informing on each other, then the

police will have enough to send each to prison for five years. The dilemma then

is this: in order to serve her own interests as well as possible, each prisoner

reasons that no matter what the other does she is better off cooperating with

the police by confessing. Each reasons: “If she confesses, then I should

confess, thereby being sentenced to five years instead of ten. And if she does

not confess, then I should confess, thereby being sentenced to one year instead

of two. So, no matter what she does, I should confess.” The problem is that when

each reason this way, they each confess, and each goes to prison for five years.

However, had they each remained silent, thereby cooperating with each other

rather than with the police, they would have spent only two years in prison.

(Note: For additional information, you can read more about Gauthier by

copying the URL into your internet browser.

(http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/#SH2a). It will take you to the Internet

Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The link takes you to the beginning of a great

article on social contract. The outline at the beginning shows that the

discussion on Gauthier and the Prisoner’s Dilemma is in the middle of the

article, in the “More Recent Theories” section, following Rawls. Gauthier

comments on the idea that the Prisoner’s Dilemma shows that it is in an

individual’s best interest to cooperate, even when it means that they will give

up some individual freedom.)

addressing the following questions: in 800 words with references

  1. Consider the concepts of utilitarianism, egoism, and social contract. What

    would be the correct action for each prisoner according to each theory? How

    would social contract apply? Would it produce the desired result?

  2. From your experience, is cooperation always in your best interest? Can you

    share an example. Alternatively, to state it negatively, why do selfish,

    self-centered people seem to prosper if cooperation is always in their best

    interest?

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