What's 'Wrong' in Contractualism?

Utilitas 8 (03):329- (1996)
Abstract
Brian Barry's Justice as Impartiality is an important book. One of its contributions to the discipline is a characteristically clear presentation of what follows if one accepts a commitment to equality, and the reasonableness of continuing and profound disagreements about the nature of the good life (the reasonableness of pluralism). I take the argument of Justice as Impartiality to be an important next step in the attempt to give an account of the content of justice which is impartial, fair, or neutral between conceptions of the good, and engaging with it has the great advantage that many of the criticisms that can be made of Barry apply to other liberal contractualist theories of social justice. It is faintly ironic that it is one of Barry's great virtues, his clarity, that makes it easier to see the problems inherent in the attempt to complete the impartialist project. I have not attempted below to offer a systematic summary and critique of Barry's book or any particular section of it. Instead I have opted to try to engage with the ideas that drive it at a more fundamental level.
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