CFP: The Future of Contractualism: Moral and Political Issues in Contractualist Theory

Submission deadline: November 20, 2011

Conference date(s):
May 11, 2012 - May 12, 2012

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Conference Venue:

University of Rennes 1
Rennes, France

Topic areas


Rawls’ Theory of Justice established contractualism as one of the main contemporary views in moral and political philosophy. The many variants of contractualism that have since been offered testify of its remarkable and continuous significance. This multiplicity itself nonetheless raises some questions about the nature, scope and validity of contractualist theory. The aim of this conference is to question contractualism's structure, its grounds and its consequences.

First, one can inquire about the relation between contractualism (or other constructivist variants) and moral realism: does the former represent a radical rejection of the latter, or should it be interpreted as a specific form of it? Further, is contractualism best understood as a mere procedure, allowing us to express culture-dependent well informed moral judgments, without any direct concern for substantial moral theses? Or, on the contrary, is the contractualist procedure fundamentally constitutive of substantial moral judgments?

These ontological and epistemological questions are related to normative ones. Should one expect contractualism to be able to respond to all moral and political issues, or only to a subset of them (whose limits then have to be specified)? How does the contractualist procedure relate to consequentialism or to some value-oriented account of morality? Is contractualism necessarily attached to a deontological view?

Moreover, one can question contractualism’s specific situation in regard with the relation between morality and politics: is contractualism, in any of its versions, primarily a moral procedure, subsequently grounding political principles, or is it first and foremost a political procedure? Should perhaps contractualism be viewed as offering radically different assets to morality and politics?

Finally, some contributions may focus on the theoretical and normative basis for a re-assessement of contractualism: do the recent developments of deliberative democracy or moral constructivism represent alternatives to, or reinterpretations of, contractualism? Does the use of fiction in the contractualist setting really offer a valid way to solve moral and political issues, or should one prefer a theory explicitly referring to “reality”? How should then one consider contractualist hypotheses regarding the rationality or reasonableness of contracting partners?
Propositions (max. 1 000 words) can be submitted in English or in French. They should be sent to [email protected] prepared for blind review before November 20th, 2011.
Notification of acceptance will be provided by December 10th, 2011.
Final versions will be expected no later than May 1st, 2012.

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