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Michael Moehler
Virginia Tech
  1.  74
    The Scope of Instrumental Morality.Michael Moehler - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (2):431-451.
    In The Order of Public Reason (2011a), Gerald Gaus rejects the instrumental approach to morality as a viable account of social morality. Gaus' rejection of the instrumental approach to morality, and his own moral theory, raise important foundational questions concerning the adequate scope of instrumental morality. In this article, I address some of these questions and I argue that Gaus' rejection of the instrumental approach to morality stems primarily from a common but inadequate application of this approach. The scope of (...)
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  2. A Hobbesian Derivation of the Principle of Universalization.Michael Moehler - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 158 (1):83-107.
    In this article, I derive a weak version of Kant's categorical imperative within an informal game-theoretic framework. More specifically, I argue that Hobbesian agents would choose what I call the weak principle of universalization, if they had to decide on a rule of conflict resolution in an idealized but empirically defensible hypothetical decision situation. The discussion clarifies (i) the rationality requirements imposed on agents, (ii) the empirical conditions assumed to warrant the conclusion, and (iii) the political institutions that are necessary (...)
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  3. Contractarian Ethics and Harsanyi’s Two Justifications of Utilitarianism.Michael Moehler - 2013 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (1):24-47.
    Harsanyi defends utilitarianism by means of an axiomatic proof and by what he calls the 'equiprobability model'. Both justifications of utilitarianism aim to show that utilitarian ethics can be derived from Bayesian rationality and some weak moral constraints on the reasoning of rational agents. I argue that, from the perspective of Bayesian agents, one of these constraints, the impersonality constraint, is not weak at all if its meaning is made precise, and that generally, it even contradicts individual rational agency. Without (...)
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  4. The (Stabilized) Nash Bargaining Solution as a Principle of Distributive Justice.Michael Moehler - 2010 - Utilitas 22 (4):447-473.
    It is argued that the Nash bargaining solution cannot serve as a principle of distributive justice because (i) it cannot secure stable cooperation in repeated interactions and (ii) it cannot capture our moral intuitions concerning distributive questions. In this article, I propose a solution to the first problem by amending the Nash bargaining solution so that it can maintain stable cooperation among rational bargainers. I call the resulting principle the stabilized Nash bargaining solution. The principle defends justice in the form (...)
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  5.  41
    Minimal Morality: A Multilevel Social Contract Theory.Michael Moehler - 2018 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    This book develops a novel multilevel social contract theory that, in contrast to existing theories in the liberal tradition, does not merely assume a restricted form of reasonable moral pluralism, but is tailored to the conditions of deeply morally pluralistic societies which may be populated by liberal moral agents, nonliberal moral agents, and, according to the traditional understanding of morality, nonmoral agents alike. The book draws on the history of the social contract tradition, especially the work of Hobbes, Hume, Kant, (...)
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  6. Why Hobbes' State of Nature is Best Modeled by an Assurance Game.Michael Moehler - 2009 - Utilitas 21 (3):297-326.
    In this article, I argue that if one closely follows Hobbes' line of reasoning in Leviathan, in particular his distinction between the second and the third law of nature, and the logic of his contractarian theory, then Hobbes' state of nature is best translated into the language of game theory by an assurance game, and not by a one-shot or iterated prisoner's dilemma game, nor by an assurance dilemma game. Further, I support Hobbes' conclusion that the sovereign must always punish (...)
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  7. The Rawls–Harsanyi Dispute: A Moral Point of View.Michael Moehler - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (1):82-99.
    Central to the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute is the question of whether the core modeling device of Rawls' theory of justice, the original position, justifies Rawls' principles of justice, as Rawls suggests, or whether it justifies the average utility principle, as Harsanyi suggests. Many commentators agree with Harsanyi and consider this dispute to be primarily about the correct application of normative decision theory to Rawls' original position. I argue that, if adequately conceived, the Rawls–Harsanyi dispute is not primarily a dispute about the (...)
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  8.  55
    Rational Cooperation and the Nash Bargaining Solution.Michael Moehler - 2015 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (3):577-594.
    In a recent article, McClennen (2012) defends an alternative bargaining theory in response to his criticisms of the standard Nash bargaining solution as a principle of distributive justice in the context of the social contract. McClennen rejects the orthodox concept of expected individual utility maximizing behavior that underlies the Nash bargaining model in favor of what he calls full rationality, and McClennen’s full cooperation bargaining theory demands that agents select the most egalitarian strictly Pareto-optimal distributional outcome that is strictly Pareto-superior (...)
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  9.  12
    Minimal Morality, Bargaining Power, and Moral Constraint: Replies to D’Agostino, Thrasher, Morris, and Vanderschraaf.Michael Moehler - forthcoming - Analytic Philosophy.
    The history of contractarian moral theory is long and varied. It includes the classic social contract theories of Hobbes (1651), Hume (1739/1740), and Kant (1785) as well as modern versions of these theories, such as those of Gauthier (1986), Scanlon (1998), Darwall (2006), and Southwood (2010). In Minimal Morality: A Multilevel Social Contract Theory (2018), I continue this tradition by developing a ‘multilevel social contract theory’ that combines Humean, Hobbesian, and Kantian moral features. In this article, I reply to comments (...)
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  10.  71
    Justice and Peaceful Cooperation.Michael Moehler - 2009 - Journal of Global Ethics 5 (3):195-214.
    Justice is important, but so is peaceful cooperation. In this article, I argue that if one takes seriously the autonomy of individuals and groups and the fact of moral pluralism, a just system of cooperation cannot guarantee peaceful cooperation in a pluralistic world. As a response to this consideration, I develop a contractarian theory that can secure peace in a pluralistic world of autonomous agents, assuming that the agents who exist in this world expect that peaceful cooperation is the most (...)
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  11.  42
    Diversity, Stability, and Social Contract Theory.Michael Moehler - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (12):3285-3301.
    The topic of moral diversity is not only prevalent in contemporary moral and political philosophy, it is also practically relevant. Moral diversity, however, poses a significant challenge for moral theory building. John Thrasher, in his discussion of public reason theory, which includes social contract theory, argues that if one seriously considers the goal of moral constructivism and considerations of representation and stability, then moral diversity poses an insurmountable problem for most public reason theories. I agree with Thrasher that moral diversity (...)
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  12.  27
    Contractarianism and Climate Change.Michael Moehler - forthcoming - In Ben Eggleston & Dale E. Miller (eds.), Moral Theory and Climate Change: Ethical Perspectives on a Warming Planet. Routledge.
    Contemporary moral contractarianism originates with Hobbes’s moral theory. When considering the structure of Hobbes’s moral theory, however, it is often argued that moral contractarianism does not justify any specific moral demands concerning questions of climate change because currently no global Leviathan in Hobbes’s sense exists that could enforce any such demands in our world. I do not dispute the fact that currently no global Leviathan in Hobbes’s sense exists in our world. Nevertheless, I argue that Hobbesian moral contractarianism offers an (...)
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  13.  36
    Summary of Minimal Morality: A Multilevel Social Contract Theory.Michael Moehler - 2019 - Analysis 79 (1):103-105.
    In Minimal Morality, I develop a multilevel social contract theory that, in contrast to existing theories in the liberal tradition, does not merely assume a restricted form of reasonable moral pluralism, but is tailored to the conditions of deeply morally pluralistic societies that may include liberal moral agents, nonliberal moral agents, and, according to the traditional understanding of morality, nonmoral agents. The theory takes its main inspiration from the moral theories of Hobbes (1651), Hume (1739/1740), and Kant (1785, 1795, and (...)
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  14.  33
    Replies to Gaus, Van Schoelandt and Cooper: Prudence, Morality and the Social Contract.Michael Moehler - 2019 - Analysis 79 (1):140-153.
    Abstract. In Minimal Morality (2018), I develop a multilevel social contract theory that accommodates deep moral pluralism. In this article, I reply to comments by Gaus, Van Schoelandt and Cooper concerning the three core projects of the book that aim to (i) revive orthodox rational choice contractarianism as a viable approach to the social contract, (ii) integrate this approach into a comprehensive social contract theory and (iii) show the applicability of the theory to the real world. My replies clarify some (...)
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  15.  60
    Impartiality, Priority, and Justice: The Veil of Ignorance Reconsidered.Michael Moehler - 2016 - Journal of Social Philosophy 47 (3):350-367.
    In this article, I defend the veil of ignorance against the objection that the device is inadequate for deriving demands of justice, because the veil of ignorance purportedly enforces a stronger form of impartiality than Kant’s categorical imperative and, primarily as a consequence, it generally leads to non-prioritarian conclusions. I show that the moral ideal of impartiality that is expressed by the veil of ignorance is not essentially different from Kant’s notion of impartiality and that it does not generally lead (...)
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  16.  65
    Orthodox Rational Choice Contractarianism: Before and After Gauthier.Michael Moehler - 2016 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 15 (2):113-131.
    In a recent article, Gauthier rejects orthodox rational choice contractarianism in favor of a revisionist approach to the social contract that, according to him, justifies his principle of maximin proportionate gain as a principle of distributive justice. I agree with Gauthier that his principle of maximin proportionate gain cannot be justified by orthodox rational choice contractarianism. I argue, however, that orthodox rational choice contractarianism, before and after Gauthier, is still a viable approach to the social contract, although the scope of (...)
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  17.  23
    In Defense of a Democratic Productivist Welfare State.Michael Moehler - 2017 - European Journal of Philosophy 25 (2):416-439.
    In this article, I defend a democratic form of the productivist welfare state. I argue that this form of the state can best cope, theoretically and practically, with the diversity of deeply morally pluralistic democratic societies for two reasons. First, the justification of this form of the state rests solely on general facts about human nature, basic human needs, and efficiency considerations in a world of moderately scarce resources. Second, this state does not aim to promote a specific view of (...)
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  18.  56
    Neoclassical Economics.Michael Moehler & Geoffrey Brennan - 2010 - In Mark Bevir (ed.), Encyclopedia of Political Theory. SAGE Publications.
    The term neoclassical economics delineates a distinct and relatively homogenous school of thought in economic theory that became prominent in the late nineteenth century and that now dominates mainstream economics. The term was originally introduced by Thorstein Veblen to describe developments in the discipline (of which Veblen did not entirely approve) associated with the work of such figures as William Jevons, Carl Menger, and Leon Walras. The ambition of these figures, the first neoclassicists, was to formalize and mathematize the subject (...)
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  19.  31
    Contractarianism.Michael Moehler - 2020 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This book provides a systematic defense of moral contractarianism as a distinct approach to the social contract. It elucidates, in comparison to moral conventionalism and moral contractualism, the distinct features of moral contractarianism, its scope, and conceptual and practical challenges that concern the relationship between morality and self-interest, the problems of assurance and compliance, rule-following, counterfactualism, and the nexus between morals and politics. It argues that, if appropriately conceived, moral contractarianism is conceptually coherent, empirically sound, and practically relevant, and has (...)
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