Individual morality and the morality of institutions

pages: 3-36

  • Thomas Scanlon Department of Philosophy, Harvard University


This paper discusses the relationship between moral philosophy and political philosophy. It holds that political philosophy in some way is part of moral philosophy as the former deals with the content of moral standards governing the relations between individuals and institutions. That would be the purpose of the „morality of institutions“, while the so-called "individual morality" would inform the standards applicable to individuals. On the basis of a conception of individual morality as it relates to contractualism and a discussion of the morality of institutions that closely follows John Rawls’ theory of justice, the paper addresses the question of the foundations of the obligation to comply with institution-defined standards that are directed towards individuals. At the end, it focuses in particular on the difficulty of rationalizing that obligation in the case of unjust institutions. Keywords: Moral philosophy, political philosophy, institutions, theory of justice, John Rawls, duty of compliance


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How to Cite
SCANLON, Thomas. Individual morality and the morality of institutions. Filozofija i društvo / Philosophy and Society, [S.l.], v. 27, n. 1, feb. 2016. ISSN 2334-8577. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 23 sep. 2017. doi: