Synthese 199 (3-4):8317-8334 (2021)

Michael Moehler
Virginia Tech
Conventionalism as a distinct approach to the social contract received significant attention in the game-theoretic literature on social contract theory. Peter Vanderschraaf’s sophisticated and innovative theory of conventional justice represents the most recent contribution to this tradition and, in many ways, can be viewed as a culmination of this tradition. In this article, I focus primarily on Vanderschraaf’s defense of the egalitarian bargaining solution as a principle of justice. I argue that one particular formal feature of this bargaining solution, the baseline consistency requirement, may stand in tension with other features of conventionalism as an approach to the social contract and limit the scope of Vanderschraaf’s theory to societies in which de facto an egalitarian sense of justice evolves. It limits the scope of Vanderschraaf’s theory in the face of moral diversity. A similar limitation applies to Vanderschraaf’s theory of democratic political authority. Despite these minor limitations, Vanderschraaf’s theory can only be seen as a major success and significant contribution to social contract theory.
Keywords Social contract theory  Conventionalism  Egalitarianism  Bargaining theory  Democratic political authority
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-021-03164-x
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