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Profile: Aaron James
  1. Aaron James, A Theory of Fairness in Trade.
    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? In this paper, I offer answers to these questions which derive from a broadly Rawlsian “constructivist” methodology. My proposals are as follows. (...)
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  2. Aaron James, Deflating Fact-Insensitivity.
    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 (non-meta-ethical) arguments may retain independent force, the argument from fact-insensitivity is largely (though not entirely) inconsequential.
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  3. Aaron James, Global Economic Fairness: Internal Principles.
    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 (...)
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  4. Aaron James, Moral Assurance Problems in Global Context.
    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 face normatively significant problems of assurance because they have imperfect knowledge about (...)
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  5. Aaron James, Political Constructivism: Foundations and Novel Applications.
    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 special “political” (...)
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  6. Aaron James, The Hazards of Capital Liberalization.
    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 banking crises between 1970 and 2008. (...)
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  7. Aaron James, The Significance of Distribution.
    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 then depends (...)
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  8. Aaron James, When International Intellectual “Piracy” is Fair.
    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 a somewhat (...)
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  9. Aaron James (forthcoming). Reply to Critics. Canadian Journal of Philosophy.
    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?
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  10. Aaron James (2013). Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy. Oup Usa.
    If the global economy seems unfair, how should we understand what a fair global economy would be? What ideas of fairness, if any, apply, and what significance do they have for policy and law? Working within the social contract tradition, this book argues that fairness is best seen as a kind of equity in practice.
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  11. Aaron James (2013). The Meaning of “Asshole”. The Philosophers' Magazine 62 (62):51-57.
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  12. Aaron James (2013). Why Practices? Raisons Politiques 51:43-62.
    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 aim of addressing humanity, and thicker still given the (...)
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  13. Aaron James (2012). Contractualism's (Not so) Slippery Slope. Legal Theory 18 (3):263-292.
    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 recommends something other than aggregative cost-benefit decision-making. (...)
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  14. Aaron James (2012). Constructing Protagorean Objectivity. In Jimmy Lenman & Yonatan Shemmer (eds.), Constructivism in Practical Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    At least since the late Early Modern period, the Holy Grail of ethics, for many philosophers, has been to say how ethical values could have a kind of protagorean objectivity: values are to be both fully objective as values and yet depend on us by their very nature. More than any other contemporary foundational approach it is “constructivist” theories, such as those due to Rawls, Scanlon, and Korsgaard, which have consciously sought to explain how protagorean objectivity is a real possibility. (...)
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  15. Aaron James (2012). Political Liberalism. In Gerald F. Gaus & Fred D'Agostino (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy. Routledge. 317.
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  16. Aaron James (2008). Rawlsian Justice in a Common Globe. In Stephen Gough & Andrew Stables (eds.), Sustainability and Security Within Liberal Societies: Learning to Live with the Future. Routledge. 16.
     
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  17. Aaron James (2007). Constructivism About Practical Reasons. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2):302–325.
    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 constructivism must assurne (...)
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  18. Aaron James (2006). Equality in a Realistic Utopia. Social Theory and Practice 32 (4):699-724.
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  19. Aaron James (2006). The Objectivity of Values: Invariance Without Explanation. Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 (4):581-605.
    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 recent writers (...)
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  20. Aaron James (2005). Constructing Justice for Existing Practice: Rawls and the Status Quo. Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (3):281–316.
  21. Aaron James (2005). Distributive Justice Without Sovereign Rule. Social Theory and Practice 31 (4):533-559.
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  22. Aaron James (2005). Power in Social Organization as the Subject of Justice. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (1):25–49.
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  23. Aaron James (2004). Rights and Circularity in Scanlon’s Contractualism. Journal of Moral Philosophy 1 (3):367-374.
  24. Aaron James (2004). What's a Religion and Who's a Sect? Teaching Ethics 4 (2):103-106.
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  25. Aaron James, How to Defend Sweatshop Labor.
    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. (...)
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