Philosophical Inquiry 41 (1):11-40 (2017)

Dietmar Hübner
Universität Hannover
John Rawls’ “reflective equilibrium” ranges amongst the most popular conceptions in contemporary ethics when it comes to the basic methodological question of how to justify and trade off different normative positions and attitudes. Even where Rawls’ specific contractualist account is not adhered to, “reflective equilibrium” is readily adopted as the guiding idea of coherentist approaches, seeking moral justification not in a purely deductive or inductive manner, but in some balancing procedure that will eventually procure a stable adjustment of relevant doctrines and standpoints. However, it appears that the widespread use of this idea has led to some considerable deviations from its meaning within Rawls’ original framework and to a critical loss of conceptual cogency as an ethico-hermeneutical tool. This contribution identifies three kinds of “balancing” constellations that are frequently, but inadequately brought forth under the heading of Rawlsian “reflective equilibrium”: balancing theoretical accounts against intuitive convictions; balancing general principles against particular judgements; balancing opposite ethical conceptions or divergent moral statements, respectively. It is argued that each of these applications departs from Rawls’ original construction of “reflective equilibrium” and also deprives the idea of its reliability in clarifying and weighing moral stances.
Keywords Ancient Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 1105-235X
DOI 10.5840/philinquiry20174112
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.C. L. Ten - 2003 - Mind 112 (447):563-566.
Outline of a Decision Procedure for Ethics.John Rawls - 1951 - Philosophical Review 60 (2):177-197.
Justice as Fairness.John Rawls - 1958 - Philosophical Review 67 (2):164-194.

View all 24 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Reflective Equilibrium and Moral Objectivity.Sem de Maagt - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (5):443-465.
Reflective Equilibrium and Theory Acceptance.Bruce Edward Roig - 1985 - Dissertation, University of Georgia
Reflective Quilibrium.Massimo Pigliucci - 2012 - Philosophy Now 88 (Jan/Feb):27-27.
Defective Equilibrium.Danny Frederick - 2016 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 23 (4):443-59.
Reflective Equilibrium Without Intuitions?Georg Brun - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (2):237-252.


Added to PP index

Total views
356 ( #23,307 of 2,432,956 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
45 ( #17,200 of 2,432,956 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes