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Reasonable agreement: A contractualist political theory.

Bufacchi, Vittorio (1994) Reasonable agreement: A contractualist political theory. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis is a defence of contractualism in liberal political theory. My aim is to show that contractualism can play a crucial role in the political theory of liberalism if it applies to the meta-ethical level rather than the ethical level. In particular, I will argue that the contractualist concept of 'reasonable agreement' provides the foundation for a new comprehensive liberal political theory. The basic intuition behind the idea of reasonable agreement is that all principles and rules must be capable of being justified to everyone: these are principles and rules on which everyone could reach agreement, where the agreement is defined in terms of what no one could reasonably reject. The first introductory chapter will attempt to establish that contractualism reflects the ethical core of liberalism, and that the contractualist theory of reasonable agreement gives the best account of egalitarianism. This will be followed by six chapters, divided in two parts, and a brief conclusion. Part I presents the case for contractualism from a theoretical angle, providing a conceptual analysis of reasonable agreement. Part II examines reasonable agreement from a political angle, providing an analysis of three key questions in political liberalism. The three chapters making up Part I deal with the theories of Rawls and Scanlon, the two major figures responsible for reviving the interest in contractualism in general, and 'reasonable agreement' in particular. Chapter 2 critically evaluates Rawls's contractualism, while Chapter 3 focuses on the moral theory of Scanlon. Chapter 4 attempts to build on the efforts of Rawls and Scanlon by further exploring and hopefully improving on their theory of reasonable agreement. I believe that the strength of reasonable agreement lies in its effort to raise contractualism from the ethical to the meta-ethical level, thus the three chapters in Part I evaluate two notions central to reasonable agreement: the idea of agreement and the concept of reasonableness. This brings us to the second part of the thesis, where the relationship between 'reasonable agreement' and political liberalism is investigated. Political liberalism is concerned with the political concepts that form the basis of a liberal society, namely, political obligation, social justice, and neutrality. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 examine how the egalitarian proposal of reasonable agreement applies respectively to these three liberal questions. The concluding chapter will provide a summary of the main arguments presented in the thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, General
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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