selected published papers


"Political Philosophy as the Study of Complex Normative Systems," Cosmos + Taxis, vol. 5 (issue 2, 2018): 62-78.

(with Chad Van Schoelandt) "Consensus on What? Convergence for What? Four Models of Political Liberalism." Ethics,vol. 128 (October 2017): 145-172.

"Hayekian "Classical" Liberalism." In The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism, edited by Jason Brennan, Bas van der Vossen, and David Schmidtz. New York Routledge, 2018): 34-52.

"The Priority of Social Morality". In Morality, Governance, and Social Institutions: Reflections on Russell Hardin, edited by Thomas Christiano, Ingrid Creppell and Jack Knight. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2018.

"Is Public Reason a Normalization Project? Deep Diversity and the Open Society." Social Philosophy Today,vol. 33 (2017): 27-55.

"Social Morality and the Primacy of Individual Perspectives" Review of Austrian Economics,vol. 30 (2017), 377-396.

(with Keith Hankins) "Searching for the Ideal: The Fundamental Diversity Dilemma." in Political Utopias: Contemporary Debates, edited by Michael Weber and Kevin Vallier. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017: 175-201.

(with Shaun Nichols)"Moral Learning in the Open Society: The Theory and Practice of Natural Liberty," Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 34 (Summer 2017): 79-101.

"Locke's Liberal Theory of Public Reason," in Piers Norris Turner and Gerald Gaus, eds. Public Reason in the History of Political Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 2018: 163-83.

'The Commonwealth of Bees: On the Impossibility of Justice-through-Ethos, Social Philosophy & Policy, vol. 33 (2016): 96-121.

"The Open Society as a Rule-Based Order," Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, vol. 9 (Summer 2016): 1-13.

"The Role of Conservatism in Securing and Maintaining Just Moral Constitutions: Toward a Theory of Complex Normative Systems" In NOMOS: Conservatism. New York: New York University Press,2016: 256-291.

(with John Thrasher), "Rational Choice in the Original Position." in The Original Position, edited by Timothy Hinton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016: 39-58.

"Mill's Normative Political Economy." The Blackwell Companion to Mill, edited by Christopher Macleod and Dale Miller. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016

"The Egalitarian Species." Social Philosophy and Policy," vol. 31 (Spring 2015): 1-27

"On Dissing Public Reason: A Reply to Enoch." Ethics, July 2015.

"Public Reason Liberalism." In The Cambridge Companion to Liberalism, edited by Steve Wall a. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015: 112-40.

"Private and Public Conscience (Or, Is the Sanctity of Conscience a Liberal Commitment or an Anarchical Fallacy?)" In Reason, Value, and Respect, edited by Mark Timmons and Robert Johnson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015: 135-56

"The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Three Agent-Type Challenges to The Order Of Public Reason." Philosophical Studies, vol. 170 (2014): 563-577.

"On Theorizing About Public Reason." European Journal of Analytic Philosophy, vol. 9 (2013): 64-85.

"Evolution, Evaluation, and Reform: A Hayekean Analysis" in Hayek and the Modern Economy, edited by David Levy & Sandra Peart. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013: 59-88.

"Hobbesian Contractarianism, Orthodox and Revisionist." In The Continuum Companion to Hobbes edited by S.A. Lloyd. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013: 263-278.

"On the Appropriate Mode of Justifying a Public Moral Constitution." In The Harvard Review of Philosophy," vol. 19 (2013): 4-22.

"The Turn to a Political Liberalism." In The Blackwell Companion to Rawls, edited by David Reidy and Jon Mandle. New York, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014: 235-50.

"On Being Inside Social Morality and Seeing It". Criminal Law and Philosophy, Vol. 7 (April 2013): DOI 10.1007/s11572-013-9219-8.

"Why the Conventionalist Needs the Social Contract (and Vice Versa)." RMM (Rationality, Morality, and Markets), vol. 4, 2013: 71-87.

"Social Evolution" (with John Thrasher). In The Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy, edited by Gerald Gaus and Fred D'Agostino. New York: Taylor Francis, 2013: 643-55.

"Sectarianism Without Perfection? Quong's Political Liberalism." Philosophy and Public Issues, vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall 2012): pp. 7-15.

"Constructivist and Ecological Modeling of Group Rationality." Episteme. vol. 9 (September 2012): 245-54.

"Social Contract and Social Choice." Rutgers' Law Journal ,vol. 43 (Spring/Summer 2012): 243-76.

"Property." In the Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy, edited by David Estlund. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012: 93-112.

"Hobbes's Challenge to Public Reason Liberalism," In Hobbes Today, edited by S.A. Lloyd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013: 155-177.

"Explanation, Justification, and Emergent Properties: An Essay on Nozickean Metatheory." In The Cambridge Companion to Nozick's 'Anarchy, State, and Utopia', edited by Ralf M. Bader and John Meadowcroft. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011: 116-44.

"Between Discovery and Choice: The General Will in a Diverse Society" Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, vol. 3 (2011): pp. 70-95

"Egoism, Altruism, and Our Cooperative Social Order" In Morality: The Why and What of It, edited by James Sterba. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012: 145-62.

"Ideology, Political Philosophy, and the Interpretive Enterprise: A View from the Other Side." In Liberalism as Ideology: Essays for Michael Freeden, edited by Ben Jackson and Marc Stears. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012: 178-98.

"On Seeking the Truth (whatever that is) Through Democracy: Estlund's Case for the Qualified Epistemic Claim." Ethics, vol. 121 (January 2011): 270-300.

"A Tale of Two Sets: Public Reason in Equilibrium." Public Affairs Quarterly , vol. 25 (October 2011): 305-325.

"Justification, Choice, and Promise: Three Devices of the Consent Tradition in a Diverse Society." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy,vol. 15 (March 2012): 109-127.

"Retributive Justice and Social Cooperation." In Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Practice, edited by Mark D. White. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 201:73-90.

"Recognized Rights as Devices of PublicReason," Philosophical Perspectives: Ethics, vol. 23 (2009): 111-36

"The Demands of Impartiality and the Evolution of Morality." In Partiality and Impartiality, edited by Brian Feltham and John Cottingham. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

"The Moral Foundations of Liberal Neutrality." In Debates in Contemporary Political Philosophy, Thomas Christiano and John Christman, eds., Oxford: Blackwell, 2009: 81-98.

"The Idea and Ideal of Capitalism." In The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics, edited by George G. Brenkert and Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 73-99.

"The Place of Religious Belief in Public Reason Liberalism." In Multiculturalism and Moral Conflict, edited by Maria Dimovia-Cookson and P.M.R. Stirk. London: Routledge, 2009: 19-37.

(with Kevin Vallier) "The Roles of Religious Conviction in a Publicly Justified Polity: The Implications of Convergence, Asymmetry and Political Institutions." Philosophy & Social Criticism, vol. 35 (January 2009): pp. 51-76.

"Controversial Values and State Neutrality in On Liberty. In Mill's On Liberty: A Critical Guide, edited by C.L. Ten. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008: 83-104.

"The (Severe) Limits of Deliberative Democracy as the Basis for Political Choice." Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory, no. 117 (2008): 26-53.

"Social Complexity and Evolved Moral Principles.: In Liberalism, Conservatism, And Hayek's Idea Of Spontaneous Order, Peter McNamara, ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007: 149-76

"The Evolution of Society and Mind: Hayek's System of Ideas." In Ed Feser, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Hayek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006: 232-258.

"On Justifying the Liberties of the Moderns: A Case of Old Wine in New Bottles." Social Philosophy & Policy, vol. 25 (1), 2007.

"The Rights Recognition Thesis: Defending and Extending Green" in Maria Dimovia-Cookson and Wlliam Mander, eds., T.H. Green: Metaphysics, Ethics and Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

"The Place of Autonomy in Liberalism." In Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism, John Christman and Joel Anderson, eds., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005: 272-306.

"Liberal Neutrality: A Radical and Compelling Principle" In Perfectionism and Neutrality, George Klosko and Steven Wall, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003: 137-165.

"Taking the Bad with the Good: Misplaced Worries about Legal Retribution." In Enrique Villanveua, ed., Legal and Political Philosophy. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002: 339-362.

"What is Deontology? Part One: Orthodox Views." Journal of Value Inquiry, vol. 35 (2001): 27-42.

"What is Deontology? Part Two: Reasons for Action." Journal of Value Inquiry, vol. 35 (2001): 179-193.

I wrote my doctoral dissertation under John W. Chapman, at the University of Pittsburgh. John taught me that political philosophers are not moralists: economics, political science, law, history, anthropology, and psychology— as well as philosophy — are all critical in thinking about appropriate ways for humans to organize themselves. After receiving my Ph.D. in 1979, I took up a Research Fellowship at the Australian National University, where I worked closely with Stanley Benn until his death in 1985. If John taught me how to be a political theorist, Stanley taught me how to be a philosopher. Yet both stressed a fundamental lesson: don't follow philosophical fashion and trendiness, but work on the problems that one thinks are important. So I have spent a good deal of my career swimming against the current. It can be tiring, but is more invigorating than floating downstream.

My main area of work is on public reason and diversity. The Order of Public Reason analyzed the moral framework that supports relations of responsibility. Such a framework, I argue, is one that respects all as free and equal moral persons, and this in turn requires that our social morality be publicly justified — however, the project of identifying such a morality is, I believe, clearly indeterminate. Drawing on ideas in game theory and social evolution, I try to show how a publicly justified social morality is still possible in the face of this indeterminacy.

The core of my recent writing has been the idea of a "public morality" that provides a common framework in which people pursue diverse ideals. This morality has both empirical and normative dimensions. It is empirical as it depends on a network of actual beliefs, intentions and behaviors. To be normative it must cohere with the deep, and diverse, normative commitments of the members of the public. I have built on the work of an earlier generation of social philosophers — such as Kurt Baier, P.F. Strawson, and F.A. Hayek, — who stressed how a diverse society requires a common, shared, moral, framework in which individuals can cooperate while pursuing conflicting ideals. Those interested in this project have much more to learn from the work of philosophers such as Cristina Bicchieri and Peter Vanderschraaf, and game theorists such as Herbert Gintis, than most of what goes under the rubric of "political philosophy."

The idea of a diverse, open, society is the core of my most recent book, The Tyranny of the Ideal (Princeton University Press, 2016). I try to show that societies that disagree about justice are apt to outperform — from the perspective of justice itself — societies that have come to agree on what is the correct conception of justice and are thus "well-ordered." Thus, that real human societies are characterized by deep disagreements as to the best conception of justice is not a mere fact to be accommodated by a nonideal "theory of the second best," but our main engine of moral improvement though, at the same time, our diversity of perspectives on justice means that it is most doubtful that we will ever reach rational consensus on the optimum principles of justice. A political philosophy devoted to the pursuit of what we now consider ideal justice, and which seeks a "well-ordered society" based on this shared ideal, almost certainly will condemn us to a society based on an inferior view of justice. Political philosophy, I argue, has too long labored under the sway of theorists' pictures of an ideally just society; we ought instead to investigate the characteristics of societies that encourage increasingly just arrangements.

I am currently working on a book, An Evolving Moral Order: Rethinking Hayekian Social Philosophy to be published by OUP, focusing on the evolution of complex moral orders. Here I develop a Hayekian-inspired account of social moralities as self-organizing complex adaptive systems. Even those philosophers who take moral diversity seriously generally have adopted a top-down, "moral planning" approach, in the guise of "social contracts," to help us understand what the justified moral rules of a diverse society would look like. This project develops the idea that diverse moral agents can themselves select the rules that regulate their moral lives. The task of a social philosopher is to understand the nature of justified moral orders, not to design them.

I strongly encourage my doctoral students to develop a good knowledge of game theory, social choice theory, modeling and economics (including experimental economics). I also entreat them not to build systems of social and political philosophy on "intuitions" that strike them as clear, which large numbers of good-willed, competent agents, cannot accept.

email: jerrygaus@gmail.com

FALL 2017

Phil 250: The Social Contract (Tu/Th 3:30-4:45; Social Sciences 224)

In this course we will focus on the idea of the social contract, with an emphasis on the idea of religious and moral disagreement. Can a society with deep diversity of moral and religious beliefs endorse a common framework for social and political life? The theories of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and John Rawls will be the main focus.

Phil 596F: Seminar in Social and Political Philosophy: Complexity and Self-organization (Wed. 3:30-6:00pm; Social Sciences 224 )

Jenann Ismael and I are teaching this seminar together. Our theme is self-organization and complexity as they occur in the natural sciences (such as evolutionary biology), the social sciences (such as economics), public policy, political philosophy and, yes, morality. Students should beware (and not only for the usual reason that I'm teaching it): we will read papers, some rather difficult, from a number of fields which may not strike one as about "philosophy," much less political philosophy. Speaking for myself (of course not for Jenann) if you are content with traditional political philosophy (e.g., the gripping issue whether "ought" implies "can" or the dynamics of camping trips) you may wish to engage in other activities. I agree with my great friend Fred D'Agostino: most current moral and political philosophy pursues what Lakatos called "degenerating research programs" (e.g., that social philosophy is, say, an aesthetic enterprise). Political philosophers treat societies as if they were simple, guidable systems that can be organized according to normative plans (i.e., theories of justice). On my view, social and political philosophy deal with systems of rule-guided diverse agents, and it is precisely such systems that give rise to complexity, novelty and, often, self-organization. So I plan to look far and wide for ways to think about and model such systems, including those that are properly called "normative." What would a political philosophy look like that takes seriously what Scott Page calls "the imperative of complexity?" Cool question, I think.


PPEL 320: Classics in Political Economy

This is a course in the history of economic thought. We will look at, among others, Adam Smith, Karl Marx and F.A. Hayek. The course considers why the field of political economy, combining social philosophy, politics, and economic analysis, flourished for most of the nineteenth century, but broke into separate fields at the end of the century, and the consequences of this rupture. This course is open only to junior PPEL majors with Advanced Standing.

Phil 437: Social and Moral Evolution

This course will examine the application of evolutionary thought to society, and especially to morality and social life. We will be reading books by eminent primatologists, an ethnographer, moral psychologists and an economist. These books are intended for what we might call the "educated public," not specialists. Hopefully, they are the sorts of books you'll read after you graduate (if your university education had any success with you!).The course generally works up from the evolution of pro-social feelings in primates to human biological evolution, our evolved moral psychology and then cultural evolution.

selected forthcoming papers

Self-organizing Moral Systems: Beyond Social Contract Theory, Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

"It Can't Be Rational Choice All the Way Down: Comprehensive Hobbesianism and the Origins of the Moral Order." In Tensions in the Political Economy Project of James M. Buchanan, edited by be Peter J. Boettke, Virgil Henry Storr, and Solomon Stein. Arlington, VA: Mercatus Center, forthcoming.

(with Piper Bringhurst), "Positive Freedom and the General Will." in The Oxford Handbook of Freedom, edited by David Schmidtz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

(with Chad Van Schoelandt ), "Political and Distributive Justice." in The Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice, edited by Serena Olsaretti. Oxford: Oxfored University Press, forthcoming.

"The Complexity of a Diverse Moral Order"The Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, forthcoming.

(with Chad Van Schoelandt) "Public Reason." In International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, second edn. Oxford: Elsevier Scientific Publishers, forthcoming .

work in progress

"Morality as a Complex Adaptive System: Rethinking Hayek's Social Ethics"

"The Complexity of a Diverse Moral Order." (Revised)

"Respect for Persons and Public Justification."

"Hobbes' Idea of Public Judgment: A Social Coordination Analysis."

"Amour-propre as a Basis of Fairness Norms Or, Why Being Touchy Protects Egoists from Exploitation."




The Tyranny of the Ideal: Justice in a Diverse Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016, xxii + 289pp.

The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bounded World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, xx + 612.

On Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008, xii + 220pp.

Contemporary Theories of Liberalism: Public Reason as a Post-Enlightenment Project. London: Sage Publications, 2003, ix+240pp.

Political Concepts and Political Theories. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000, xiv + 288pp.

Social Philosophy. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1999. xiv + 245pp.

Justificatory Liberalism: An Essay on Epistemology and Political Theory (Oxford Political Theory). New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, xiv + 374pp.

Value and Justification: The Foundations of Liberal Theory (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, xviii + 540 pp.

The Modern Liberal Theory of Man. New York: St. Martins's Press, 1983, vii + 312 pp.

Co-edited Books

(with Piers Norris Turner) Public Reason in the History of Political Philosophy.New York: Routledge, 2018, vii+4000 pp.

(with Fred D'Agostino) The Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy

(with Christi Favor and Julian Lamont), Essays on Philosophy, Politics, and Economics: Integration and Common Research Projects. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010.

(with Chandran Kukathas) Handbook of Political Theory. London: Sage Publications, 2004, xvi + 448 pp.

(with William Sweet) The Philosophical Theory of the State and Related Essays by Bernard Bosanquet (Classic Studies in the History of Ideas). Indianapolis: St. Augustine Press, 2001, 426 + xxv pp.

(with Fred D’Agostino) Public Reason (International Research Library of Philosophy). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998, xxiii + 470 pp.

(with S.I. Benn) Public and Private in Social Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983, vii + 412 pp.

workshop, November 16 & 17, 2007