Social Contract Theory for a Diverse World: Beyond Tolerance

I argue that Rawlsian models of public reason are not well equipped to handle the challenges posed by very diverse societies. This manifests itself in two ways: first, public reason approaches are unable to account for diverse perspectives in determining a regulative ideal. Second, regulative ideals are unable to be responsive to social change. Both problems are epistemic in nature. Public reason models focus on justification of principles, whereas I argue that we need to orient our normative theories toward discovery and experimentation of new alternatives. To address this challenge, the book develops a novel formulation of social contract theory in which perspectival diversity is a central concern. I offer a new moral stance which I call "The View From Everywhere" that allows for substantive, fundamental moral disagreement. This stance aggregates everyone's actual views, and determines which beliefs are robust against new information. I then use this moral stance to develop a bargaining model in which agents can cooperate with only minimal conditions on their agreement. I demonstrate that, up to certain limits, a more diverse population is one that is, better able to respond to changing conditions, and more likely to choose more liberal policies. I argue that we ought to replace a notion of toleration with motivated empathy: there are material and moral benefits to greater diversity, and I argue that empathy can help us realize these gains. This project is unique in that rather than arguing for an ideal contract or particular principles of justice, it outlines a procedure for iterated revisions to the rules of a social contract. It is an expansion of Mill's conception of experiments in living to a foundational principle for social contract theory. By embracing this kind of experimentation, we move away from a conception of justice as an end state, and toward a conception of justice as a trajectory.

Chapter Outline:

Chapter 0 - Introduction

Chapter 1 - Taking Diversity Seriously

Chapter 2 - Millian Justification

Chapter 3 - The View from Everywhere

Chapter 4 - Justice Without Agreement

Chapter 5 - Experiments in Distributive Justice

Chapter 6 - Dynamic Political Philosophy

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