Heterogeneous Rationality and Reasonable Disagreement in the Original Position

Journal of Philosophical Research 42:131-148 (2017)
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Abstract

In this paper I challenge the claim that each party in the original position will have a first-ranked preference for an identical set of principles of justice. I maintain, by contrast, that the original position allows parties to choose on the basis of different conceptions of rationality, which in turn may lead to a reasonable disagreement concerning the principles of justice selected. I then argue that this reasonable disagreement should not lead us to abandon contractualism, but rather to reconstruct it in the form of a two-stage process, where parties first build individual preference rankings for alternative conceptions of justice and then work towards a reconciliation of the divergent conceptions that are chosen in the first stage. Finally, I claim that threshold prioritarianism is a strong candidate for selection in this reconciliatory stage, since it manages to address both the legitimate complaints of parties that would prefer a conception of justice focused on the most disadvantaged positions in society and the legitimate complaints of parties that would prefer a conception of justice in which less or no special weight is assigned to the worst-off positions.

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Alexandru Volacu
Bucharest Center for Political Theory

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