Diversity, stability, and social contract theory

  • Michael MoehlerEmail author


The topic of moral diversity is not only prevalent in contemporary moral and political philosophy, it is also practically relevant. Moral diversity, however, poses a significant challenge for moral theory building. John Thrasher (Synthese, forthcoming), in his discussion of public reason theory, which includes social contract theory, argues that if one seriously considers the goal of moral constructivism and considerations of representation and stability, then moral diversity poses an insurmountable problem for most public reason theories. I agree with Thrasher that moral diversity poses a significant challenge for orthodox multistage social contract theories. In fact, I even add a further problem for such theories under the assumption of deep moral diversity. Nevertheless, I argue that my (Moehler, Minimal morality: a multilevel social contract theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018) recently developed multilevel social contract theory overcomes these problems. I focus on some of the underexplored features of this theory to show that multilevel social contract theory offers one conceptually coherent and plausible way to render social contract theory viable and relevant for modern diverse societies.


Constructivism Multistage social contract theory Multilevel social contract theory Moral diversity Autonomy Compliance Stability 



The author would like to thank John Thrasher and the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their helpful discussions and comments on previous versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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