, Volume 196, Issue 1, pp 429–450 | Cite as

Constructivism, representation, and stability: path-dependence in public reason theories of justice

  • John ThrasherEmail author


Public reason theories are characterized by three conditions: constructivism, representation, and stability. Constructivism holds that justification does not rely on any antecedent moral or political values outside of the procedure of agreement. Representation holds that the reasons for the choice in the model must be rationally explicable to real agents outside the model. Stability holds that the principles chosen in the procedure should be stable upon reflection, especially in the face of diversity in a pluralistic society. Choice procedures that involve at least two-stages with different information, as Rawls’s theory does, will be path-dependent and not meet the condition of representation since it will not be globally coherent. Attempts to solve this problem without eliminating the segmentation of choice in the procedure will run afoul of constructivism or stability. This problem is instructive because it highlights how public reason theories must evolve in the face of increased concerns about diversity.


Public reason Stability Path-dependence Social contract Constructivism 



Thanks to Alexei Procyshyn, Hun Chung, Justin Bruner, Keith Hankins, Leif Wenar, Jerry Gaus, Brian Kogelmann, Chad van Schoelandt, Danny Shahar, and audiences at the University of New South Wales, the University of Canterbury, Seoul National University, The University of Utah, and the University of Arizona for helpful comments on earlier version of this paper and for discussion on the topic.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Department, School of Philosophy, History, and International StudiesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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