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The poverty of contractarian moral education

Clayton, Matthew; Stevens, David

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Matthew Clayton


In A Theory of Moral Education, Michael Hand claims that a directive moral education that seeks to persuade children that a particular conception of contractarian morality is justified can be undertaken without falling foul of the requirement not to indoctrinate. In this article, we set out a series of challenges to Hand’s argument. First, we argue that Hand’s focus on ‘reasonable disagreement’ regarding the status of a moral conception is a red-herring in this conception. Second, we argue that the endorsement of moral contractarianism and the prohibition on indoctrination pull in different directions: if contractarianism is sound, then teachers or governments should be less worried about indoctrination than Hand suggests. Third, we argue that moral contractarianism is mistaken; teachers should look elsewhere for guidance on the moral norms and principles towards which they should direct their pupils.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 31, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 1, 2019
Publication Date Apr 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jan 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 2, 2020
Journal Journal of Moral Education
Print ISSN 0305-7240
Electronic ISSN 1465-3877
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 4
Pages 501-514
Keywords Michael Hand; Moral education; Moral contractarianism; Reasonable disagreement; Indoctrination
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Moral Education on 01.04.2019, available online:


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