selected published papers


"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.

"The Property Equilibrium in a Free Society", Social Philosophy and Policy.vol. 28 (Summer 2011): 74-101.

"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.

"Is the Public Incompetent? Compared to Whom? About What?," Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, vol. 20 (2009): 291-311.

(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.

"Reasonable Utility Functions and Playing the Cooperative Way." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol. 11 (June 2008): 215-234

"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.

"The Diversity of Comprehensive Liberalisms." In Handbook of Political Theory, Gaus and Kukathas, eds., op. cit., pp. 100-114.

"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 received my BA from SUNY/Buffalo and my MA and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. In the early '80s I was a Research Fellow in Philosophy Department in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University, where I worked closely with Stanley Benn. (Stanley's great book, A Theory of Freedom, is one of the most underappreciated books in recent political philosophy: there is more good philosophy in one of Stanley's chapters than most books in recent political philosophy.) From 1997-2002, together with Fred D'Agostino and Peter Forrest, I was co-editor of The Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Oxford UP). I was a founding co-editor of Politics, Philosophy & Economics (Sage).

My main area of work is on public reason and diversity. My most recent book is The Order of Public Reason published by Cambridge, in which I analyze 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."

I am currently working on a book, The Tyranny of the Ideal, to be published by Princeton University Press. In this book I 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 strongly encourage my doctoral students to develop a good knowledge of game theory, social choice theory, modeling and economics (including experimental economics).

email: jerry@gaus.biz

FALL 2014

Phil 596F: Seminar in Social and Political Philosophy: Norms and Conventions

Tuesday, 6:30 - 900pm

In my view, much of contemporary social and political philosophy is deeply objectionable as it rests on three misguided convictions:

(1) The Strict Positive/Normative Distinction: Whether or not Alf truly morally ought (or ought not) to X (or whether he truly has a moral right R, or a moral duty D) in society S does not (in any important way) depend on whether there is an actually recognized social rule in S according to which Alf ought to X (or has a moral right R, or a moral duty D).

(2) The Strong Moral Autonomy Conviction: Each competent moral agent in society S properly arrives at her own judgment as to what morality truly requires. The justification of this judgment does not require (i) reference to any collective determination, decision, or social fact as to what the morality of society S is, nor (ii) does the correct answer to what morality truly requires depend on what the person inquiring thinks it requires, or what the other people in S think it requires.

(3) The Anti-technology Conviction: Morality is a not a technology to enable human cooperative social life. Morality does not have necessary functions: (i) it simply is, though it also (ii) instructs us what to do.

Because so much contemporary moral, social, and political philosophy presupposes these misguided convictions, it is generally a misguided (and in an interesting sense, absurdly individualistic) enterprise. I am thus interested in exploring views of morality that conceive of it as a positive, collective, social achievement, that allows us to live together in a cooperative and peaceful hyper-social life. Two contemporary literatures have shed light on the way morality (broadly construed) allows us to live together cooperatively (and when it can go wrong, making our lives worse): the literatures on social norms and moral conventions. In this seminar we will mostly read current — often still unpublished —work in these areas. As we will see, this literature is a complicated mixture of normative and empirical analysis.

As per usual, but even more so, there is a lot of reading in this seminar. I operate on the controversial methodology that you have to read a lot before you know what you talking about.


PPEL 320: Classics in Political Economy

Tuesday, Thursday, 3:30 - 4:45pm

This is a course in the history of economic thought. We will look at, among others, Adam Smith, J.S. Mill, Karl Marx, F.A. Hayek and John Maynard Keynes. 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.

Phil 250: The Social Contract

Tuesday, Thursday, 12:30 - 1:45pm

In a world in which we disagree deeply about the ends of life and the requirements of morality, how can we live together? The social contract tradition has sought to base society and political life on an agreement by individuals to live according to rules of justice. This course focuses on the search for this agreement, in the classical theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, as well as contemporary theories such as that of John Rawls. This course is open only those who plan to major in PPEL.

selected forthcoming papers

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

(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, 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.

, "Scaling Up the Technology of Norm Change: Problems of Justification." in Norms in the Wild. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

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

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

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

"The Egalitarian Species." Social Philosophy and Policy," forthcoming.

"Public Reason Liberalism." In The Cambridge Companion to Liberalism, edited by Steve Wall and Chandran Kukathas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

"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, forthcoming.

work in progress

"Is Public Reason a Normalization Project? Deep Diversity and the Open Society."

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

(with Shaun Nichols)"Moral Learning in the Open Society: The Theory and Practice of Natural Liberty."




The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bounded World Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, xx + 621pp.

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 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

On November 16 and 17 here in Tucson, there will be a workshop on public reason. Click here to go the Workshop website, which includes the full program.

Particpants will include:

Alyssa Bernstein, Ohio University
Chris Bertram, University of Bristol
Bruce Brower, Tulane University
Tom Christiano, University of Arizona
Richard Dagger, Arizona State University
Peter de Marneffe, Arizona State University
Christopher Eberle, Naval Academy
Andrew Lister, Queens University
S.A. Lloyd, University of Southern California
James Nickel, Arizona State University
Jonathan Quong, University of Manchester
Shaun Young, Carleton University
Steven Wall, Bowling Green State University

Please register if you plan to attend, by writing me at ggaus@email.arizona.edu. The Workshop is open to everyone who (1) reads the papers ahead of time and (2) attends all the sessions. There will be dinners on Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th.

Thanks to the Arizona Philosophy Department for their financial assistance.