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2022 Fall

 Conference: New Approaches to Social Contract Theory: Liberty, Equality, Diversity and the Open Society

December 8-10, 2022 • Wilkinson Hall

This workshop features new approaches to social contract theory. Whereas traditional social contract theories and their adaptations in the 20th century were developed for fairly homogeneous societies, societies in the 21st century often are characterized by conflicting first-order directives that stem from deep moral, political, religious, and cultural diversity. To address such diversity and the complexities of contemporary societies, new approaches (including formal approaches) to social contract theory have emerged that re-envision the social contract for a fragmented and sometimes polarized, yet interdependent, social world. 

New social contract theory explores how, in a world of continuous disagreement on questions of justice, in particular the ideals of liberty and equality, society not only can progress but also flourish and become more robust and open in its social fabric. This workshop (and the companion volume to be published by Oxford University Press) brings together, for the first time, defenders and discussants of new social contract theory. It will include contributions by eminent and emerging scholars in this field. 

Workshop Program

2022 Participants:

John Thrasher, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Chapman University

Michael Moehler, Professor of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Virginia Tech

Christopher Morris, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Maryland

Sahar Heydari Fard, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Ohio State University

Cailin O'Connor, Professor of Philosophy, UCI

Alex Schaefer, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, NYU

Justin Bruner, Associate Professor, Department of Political Economy and Moral Science, University of Arizona

Ryan Muldoon, Professor of Philosophy, University at Buffalo

Claire Finkelstein, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania

Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy and Law, USC

Shaun Hargreaves Heap

In-Class Collaboration & Lecture (Nov 11, 2022)

Lecture:" Non-selfish behaviour: Are social preferences or social norms revealed in distribution decisions?"

Abstract: People frequently choose to reduce own payoffs to help others. This non-selfish behaviour is typically assumed to arise because people are motivated by social preferences. An alternative explanation is that they follow social norms. We test which of these two accounts can better explain subjects' decisions in a simple distribution game. Unlike previous studies, we elicit preferences and perceived norms directly for each subject. We find that descriptive norm-following predicts people's distributive choices better than their social preferences, and lack of confidence in one's social preference predicts descriptive norm-following. Our findings have implications for the use of the Pareto and related criterion in welfare evaluations.

Bio: Shaun Hargreaves Heap was an undergraduate at Oxford and did a PhD at UC Berkeley. He taught for many years at the University of East Anglia and has held visiting positions at Sydney University and Concordia in Montreal. He has been at King’s College, London, since 2013. His current research uses experiments to examine how the social context influences individual decision making. It has been published in the American Economic Review, Econometrica and the Economic Journal. Another strand of his research is at the interface of philosophy and economics: e.g. an application of JS Mill’s no-harm principle to policy evaluation.

Harrison Frye

In-Class Collaboration & Lecture (October 17 - 18, 2022)

Lecture: "The Communal Status of the Market"

October 18, 2022 • 5:00 PM • Wilkinson Hall 221


Abstract: A recent swathe of work criticizes the institution of the market as incompatible with the value of community. This paper seeks to systematize and evaluate the communal criticism of the market. I consider four versions of the criticism: the market elicits vicious motives, the market involves the instrumentalization of one another, the market creates contingent relationships, and the market excludes particular interests from consideration. I will argue that each of these challenges to the market fail. Either they depend on a faulty model of market life, or the normative force of the argument is not as strong as it appears. Ultimately, I concede there is a truth to the claim that the market is uncommunal, but it is not uncommunal in a way we should be too concerned about.

Bio: Professor Harrison Frye is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia. He is a political theorist whose research interests include the ideal of freedom, the morality of the market, and the value of social norms. His recent research focuses on online shaming, arguing that it is often dysfunctional. His work appears in venues such as Journal of Political Philosophy and Economics and Philosophy.

This lecture is open to the Chapman community. In case of questions, please contact Carol Campos (cacampos@chapman.edu).

Titus Techera

Lecture: "Mythology, Heroism & Progress"

October 3, 2022 • 5:30 PM • Wilkinson Hall 221

Titus Techera will be delivering a talk about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Blade Runner (1982) entitled, “Mythology, Heroism & Progress.” Titus Techera is the Executive Director of the American Cinema Foundation and a cultural critic and contributor to Modern Age, Law & Liberty, and the Acton Institute Powerblog.  He studied political science and the liberal arts in Europe and is a scholar of classical political philosophy.

Pizza, salad, and soft drinks will be provided for those attending the talk, which will be followed immediately by a Q & A session and a general discussion. This lecture is open to the Chapman community. In case of questions, please contact Carol Campos (cacampos@chapman.edu).