Aaron James

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Professor Aaron James

Aaron James, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. Professor James received his PH.D. from Harvard University and wrote a best-selling book called A--holes: A Theory and who teaches a course called Introduction to Moral Philosophy: Outlaws, Psychopaths and A--holes.

Research Interests

Ethics, Political philosophy

Academic Distinctions

Awarded ACLS's Burkhardt fellowship in 2008, for one year of study (2009-10) at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University.

Research Abstract

In ethics, I work on rationalism and the foundations of moral and practical judgment, with particular interest in constructivism (what it is, how it might explain objectivity, and whether it could provide a foundational theory).

In political philosophy, I have recently written a book on fairness in the global economy, from a social contract perspective (Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy, OUP, 2012). In the past I have written about Rawls's constructive method, its neglected realist and interpretive aspects, and its application to social structures within and across major domestic institutions (such as international trade). I plan to write a book on constructivism about global justice in the future.

I am also interested in moral theory and contractualism.


Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

"Contractualism's (Not So) Slippery Slope." Legal Theory, volume 18, issue 03 (2012), pp. 263-292, at http://journals.cambridge.org/repo_A867FcA4

"Constructing Protagorean Objectivity." Constructivism in Practical Philosophy, eds. James Lenman and Yonatan Shemmer(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)

"Political Constructivism." For the Blackwell Companion to Rawls, eds. David Reidy and Jon Mandle

"Constructivism, Moral." The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, ed. Hugh LaFollette (Blackwell, forthcoming)

"Contractualism and Political Liberalism." For the Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy, eds. Gerald Gaus and Fred D’Agostino

"Moral Assurance Problems in Global Context," for Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century, ed. Sharon Lloyd (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)

"The Significance of Distribution," Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T. M. Scanlon, eds. R. Jay Wallace, Rahul Kumar, and Samuel Freeman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

"Global Economic Fairness: Internal Principles," Global Justice and International Economic Law: Opportunities and Challenges (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

"Rawlsian Justice in a Common Globe," Sustainability and Security within Liberal Societies, eds. Stephen Gough and Andrew Stables (New York: Routledge, 2008)

"Legal and Other Governance In Second Person Perspective," Loyola Law Review 40, no 2 (2006)

"Equality in a Realistic Utopia," Social Theory and Practice 32, no 4 (2006)

"Constructivism about Practical Reasons," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 no 2 (2007)

"Constructing Justice for Existing Practice: Rawls and the Status Quo," Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 no 4 (2005)

"The Objectivity of Values: Invariance without Explanation," The Southern Journal of Philosophy 44 no 4 (2006)

"Distributive Justice without Sovereign Rule: The Case of Trade," Social Theory and Practice 31 no 4 (2005)

“Rights and Circularity in Scanlon’s Contractualism,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 1.3 (2004) 369-377

“Power in Social Organization as the Subject of Justice,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (2005) 25-49

Assholes: A Theory (Doubleday, Dec. 2012). Also to be published by Rizzoli (Italy); Riemann (Germany); Psichogios (Greece); Brealey (UK); Chungrim (South Korea)

"Why Nothing Exists: A Rigorous Demonstration"

External links