•  196
    What is “political constructivism”? And to what extent is it of general use to political philosophy? My aim is to suggest that we can extract answers to these questions from John Rawls’s most clearly constructivist work, “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory.” In particular, we can formulate political constructivism as a general approach to political philosophy which is free from at least two limitations that Rawls himself might otherwise seem to place on its potential scope. The first is the …Read more
  •  147
    A Theory of Fairness in Trade
    Moral Philosophy and Politics 1 (2): 177-200. 2014.
    A theory of fairness in international trade should answer at least three questions. What, at the basic level, are we to assess as fair or unfair in the trade context? What sort of fairness issue does this basic subject of assessment raise? And, what moral principles must be fulfilled if trade is to be fair in the relevant sense? This discussion presents answers to these questions that derive from a “constructivist” methodology inspired by John Rawls and the social contract tradition.
  •  145
    Constructing Justice for Existing Practice: Rawls and the Status Quo
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (3): 281-316. 2005.
  •  139
    This paper seeks to deflate G. A. Cohen ’s recent meta-ethical argument that fundamental principles must be “fact-insensitive.” That argument does not advance Cohen ’s dispute with Rawls and other social contract theorists. There is attenuated sense of “factinsensitivity” which they can happily grant, which Cohen never rules out on specifically metaethical grounds. While his barrage of substantive arguments may retain independent force, the argument from fact-insensitivity is largely inconsequen…Read more
  •  130
    Constructivism about Practical Reasons
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2): 302-325. 2007.
    Philosophers commonly wonder what a constructivist theory as applied to practical reasons might look like. For the methods or procedures of reasoning familiar from moral constructivism do not clearly apply generally, to all practical reasons. The paper argues that procedural specification is not necessary, so long as our aims are not first-order but explanatory. We can seek to explain how there could be facts of the matter about reasons for action without saying what reasons we have. Explanatory…Read more
  •  98
    In matters of distributive justice, we assume that it is important how benefits and burdens are distributed among different people. But what, precisely, is important about this? In particular, what, from the point of view of justice, is ultimately at stake in what distributions come about? T. M. Scanlon has been coy about what his contractualist moral theory might imply for justice.[ii] Yet his conception of morality bears directly on this question of stakes. The significance of distribution the…Read more
  •  93
    To what extent should those of us concerned with justice in the global economy worry about exploitation? As I understand it, this question is in part a question about fairness and where, if at all, it applies. On one plausible view, exploitation, in the most basic, morally problematic sense, arises in bargaining situations: one party exploits another party when and only when it uses its superior bargaining position to win terms favorable to it in the agreement being made between them. (The resul…Read more
  •  85
    Now more than ever it is clear that the global economy needs to be assessed and governed from a moral point of view. Such moral assessment can, however, come in at least two quite different forms. Political philosophers have tended to focus on a range of issues (e.g. poverty, human rights, or general distributive justice) whose basic moral importance is “external” to and wholly independent of how the global economy is socially organized. The result has been relative neglect of a quite different …Read more
  •  82
    One of the more troubling developments in recent human history is the emergence of a single, nearly global system of intellectual property (IP). As I will explain, the usual moral arguments for IP—arguments from social utility, piracy, and natural or human rights—are clearly inadequate as justifications for the emerging global IP system. Indeed, the arguments are so weak that it is natural to conclude that the system should simply be abolished. I sympathize with this conclusion, but here defend …Read more
  •  61
    There is much in Thomas Hobbes’s political theory that contemporary political philosophy cannot readily accept—including Hobbes’s egoism, his unconditional right of self-defense, and his insistence that peace is only possible under absolute sovereign rule.[1] Nevertheless, we can and should embrace one of Hobbes’s central insights: that problems of assurance are of fundamental importance for questions of social justice, even, or especially, justice questions of global scale. In general, agents f…Read more
  •  56
    Why Practices?
    Raisons Politiques 51 43-62. 2013.
    The practice-based method of justification requires sensitivity to social practices. This raises difficult questions: Must the practices in question be established or at least realistic? How “constructive” can we be in our interpretation of their form or aims? This paper suggests that our answers to these questions can vary with our explanatory purposes. Requirements of realism and sociological accuracy are relatively thin given purely intellectual aims of moral understanding, thicker given the …Read more
  •  54
    The meaning of “asshole”
    The Philosophers' Magazine 62 (62): 51-57. 2013.
  •  51
    Financial crises are now commonplace in the global economy. It was not always so. For over two decades after World War II, under the Bretton Woods system of capital controls, financial crises were relatively rare.[1] Since the early 1970’s the number and frequency of financial crises (currency crises, banking crises, sovereign debt crises, or combinations thereof) increased dramatically, culminating in the enormously destructive global crisis of 2008-2009. (By one count, there were at least 124 …Read more
  •  44
    Contractualism's (not so) slippery slope
    Legal Theory 18 (3): 263-292. 2012.
    Familiar questions about whether or how far to impose risks of harm for social benefit present a fundamental dilemma for contractualist moral theories. If contractualism allows objections by considering actual outcomes, it becomes difficult to justify the risks created by most public policy, leaving contractualism at odds with moral commonsense in much the way utilitarianism is. But if contractualism instead takes a fully form by considering only expected outcomes, it becomes unclear how it reco…Read more
  •  43
    On the Philosophical Interest and Surprising Significance of the Asshole
    The Harvard Review of Philosophy 23 41-52. 2016.
  •  37
    The Objectivity of Values: Invariance without Explanation
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (4): 581-605. 2006.
    This paper develops and motivates minimalism about the objectivity of values: the objectivity of values is no more, and no less, than invariance with respect to possible differences in attitudes. Thus the relation of invariance need not have any particular explanation, or, indeed, any explanation at all, for values to count as fully objective. Values need not be metaphysically real, simply in order to be objective, as according to traditional realist views. But we should not suppose, as some rec…Read more
  •  34
    Power in social organization as the subject of justice
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (1). 2005.
  •  21
    Equality in a Realistic Utopia
    Social Theory and Practice 32 (4): 699-724. 2006.
  •  18
    Reply to critics
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (2): 286-304. 2014.
    This discussion responds to important questions raised about my theory of fairness in the global economy by Christian Barry, Charles Beitz, A.J. Julius and Kristi Olson. I further elaborate how moral argument can be ‘internal’ to a social practice, how my proposed principles of fairness depend on international practice, how I can admit several relevant conceptions of ‘harm’ and why my account does not depend on a problematic conception of societal ‘endowments’
  •  18
    The Distinctive Significance of Systemic Risk
    Ratio Juris (4): 239-258. 2016.
    This paper suggests that “systemic risk” has a distinctive kind of moral significance. Two intuitive data points need to be explained. The first is that the systematic imposition of risk can be wrongful or unjust in and of itself, even if harm never ensues. The second is that, even so, there may be no one in particular to blame. We can explain both ideas in terms of what I call responsibilities of “Collective Due Care.” Collective Due Care arguably precludes purely aggregative cost-benefit decis…Read more
  •  10
    Fortune and Fairness in Global Economic Life
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 14 (3): 270-290. 2017.
    _ Source: _Page Count 21 This paper develops John Rawls’s famous objection to the system of natural liberty as against the contemporary system of international trade. Even as “dynamic” policies have proven successful in several recent development success stories, the current system enforces a “static,” laissez-faire system of comparative advantage that threatens to consign poorly-endowed countries to a low-productivity, low-income destiny in agriculture and raw materials. I discuss two very diff…Read more
  •  10
    The meaning of “asshole”
    The Philosophers' Magazine 62 51-57. 2013.
  •  9
    How cynical can ideal theory be?
    Journal of International Political Theory 12 (2): 118-133. 2016.
  •  8
    Taking the 'error' out of Ruse's error theory
    Biology and Philosophy 12 (3). 1997.
    Michael Ruse‘s Darwinian metaethics has come under just criticism from Peter Woolcock (1993). But with modification it remains defensible. Ruse (1986) holds that people ordinarily have a false belief that there are objective moral obligations. He argues that the evolutionary story should be taken as an error theory, i.e., as a theory which explains the belief that there are obligations as arising from non-rational causes, rather than from inference or evidential reasons. Woolcock quite rightly o…Read more
  •  6
    Political liberalism
    In Gerald F. Gaus & Fred D'Agostino (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy, Routledge. pp. 317. 2012.
  •  6
    Fortune and Fairness in Global Economic Life
    New Content is Available for Journal of Moral Philosophy. forthcoming.
    _ Source: _Page Count 21 This paper develops John Rawls’s famous objection to the system of natural liberty as against the contemporary system of international trade. Even as “dynamic” policies have proven successful in several recent development success stories, the current system enforces a “static,” laissez-faire system of comparative advantage that threatens to consign poorly-endowed countries to a low-productivity, low-income destiny in agriculture and raw materials. I discuss two very diff…Read more