David Gauthier Biography

David Gauthier was born in Toronto in 1932 and educated at the University of Toronto (B.A. Hons., 1954), Harvard University (A.M., 1955), and the University of Oxford (B. Phil., 1957; D. Phil., 1961). In 1979, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (F.R.S.C.).

From 1958 to 1980, he was a member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, serving as Chairman from 1974 to 1979. Since 1980, he has been a member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, serving as Chairman from 1983 to 1987, and being appointed a Distinquished Service Professor in 1986. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science. He has held visiting appointments at UCLA, UC Berkeley, Princeton, and UC Irvine.Gauthier is the author of numerous articles and three books, Practical Reasoning (Oxford University Press, 1963), The Logic of Leviathan (Oxford University Press, 1969) and Morals by Agreement (Oxford University Press, 1986). The most recent book is the fruit of two decades of work on developing a contractarian moral theory within the framework of rational choice. A conference on this book was held in April 1987 at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University; the papers have appeared as The New Social Contract: Essays on Gauthier (Blackwell, 1988). A second conference on this book took place at the University of East Anglia in March 1989.

In addition to systematic work in moral theory, Gauthier’s main philosophical interests are in the history of political philosophy, with special attention to Hobbes and Rousseau, and in the theory of practical rationality, where he begins from an attempt to understand economic rationality, rather than from Kantian or Aristotelian antecedents.

His principal nonphilosophical interest, arising from his observation of trolley cars while still in his pram, is in what now is called light rail transit. When much younger, he was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the Canadian House of Commons, an occasional newspaper columnist, and a writer on public affairs.

Published in “Contractarianism and Rational Choice: Essays on David Gauthier’s Morals by Agreement”, ed. Peter Vallentyne (Cambridge University Press, 1991).