Aaron James

picture of Aaron  James

Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy

PH.D., Harvard University

Email: aaron.james@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
96 Humanities Instructional Building
Mail Code: 4555
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Ethics (foundations and moral theory), Political Philosophy
Academic Distinctions
Awarded ACLS's Burkhardt fellowship in 2008, for study (2009-10) at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University. Visiting Professor at NYU, Department of Philosophy, in fall of 2013. Visiting Scholar at ANU summer 2016.
Research Abstract
My most recent book, with finance and law ace Robert Hockett (Cornell law), is Money from Nothing: Why We Should Learn to Stop Worrying About Debt and Love the Federal Reserve (Melville House Press 2020). I also have several new academic papers on money and related topics, which you can find below.

In political philosophy, I've 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). I've also written about John 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'm planning two academic books on money. A first book is on money's social and normative foundations, especially in "what we owe each other" and how we account for it. A second book is on money's role and management in the global economy, especially in view of central banking. The latter extends my practice-based analysis in _Fairness In Practice_ to associative obligations generated by the state system and their upshot for public finance, social insurance, and climate adaptation.

In moral theory I have an ongoing interest in contractualism, especially in view of risk.

Also 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). Having now written about surfing (see below), I'm increasingly interested in the exercise of skill, embodiment, attunement and what they mean for practical reason and the foundations of value.

If life is long enough, I'm hoping to set out my grand "low rationalist" vision in several, related books:

1. The Moral Ledger: Debt, Money, Polity
2. Money In Practice: Fair Finance in a Global Economy
3. The Talent of Reason: Embodied Reasoning, Attunement, and the Exercise of Skill

Got a couple of pop books in the works, too.

Academic Publications

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

pdf“What the Trade Pioneers Missed: Money,” Journal of Moral and Political
Philosophy, forthcoming

pdf "Rethinking Money and Trade," for the Palgrave Handbook of International Political Theory, ed. David Riedy

pdf"Revolutions in Work: Green Growth, De-growth, A-growth,” Board Studies: The Political Ontology of Surfing and Skateboarding, eds. Kristin Lawler, David Cline, and Mike Roberts (San Diego State University Press)

pdf "Preparing for Mass Unemployment: Precautionary Basic Income," ed. Matthew Liao, Oxford University Press, 2020

pdf "Why We Must Lift the Resource Curse," for a volume on Leif Wenar's _Blood Oil_, eds. Laurie Shrage and Naomi Zack, with Rowman and Littlefield, 2018

pdf "Sovereignty and Associative Obligations," for Sovereignty and the New Executive, eds. Claire Finkelstein and Sharon Lloyd, Oxford University Press, 2018

pdf "Constructivism, Intuitionism, Ecumenism," Oxford Handbook of Distributive Justice, ed. Serena Olsaretti, 2018

pdf "Investor Rights as Nonsense -- On Stilts." In Just Financial Markets?, ed. Lisa Herzog, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2017

pdf "Fortune and Fairness in Global Economic Life," Journal of Moral Philosophy, 14.3 2017

pdf "How Cynical Can Ideal Theory Be?," Journal of International Political Theory vol. 12 no. 2 118-133, June 2016

pdf "Fairness in Trade," for Global Political Theory Today, eds. David Held and Pietro Maffettone, Polity Press, 2016.

pdf "The Distinctive Significance of Systemic Risk," Ratio Juris, Volume 30, Issue 3 2016

pdf "How To Construct Global Justice," San Diego L. Rev. 52, 1013, Fall 2015

pdf “A Theory of Fairness in Trade,” Moral Philosophy and Politics Vol 1, Issue 2 2014. A special issue on fairness in trade, guest edited by David Miller.

pdf “Replies to Critics,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol 44, Issue 2, March 2014, 286-304. A special issue on
Fairness in Practice, with discussions by Christian Barry, Charles Beitz, A.J. Julius, and Kristi Olson. At: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/qQSpWUKPzvqUKv5zgAqS/full

pdf "Why Practices?" Raison Politiques, 51, Summer 2013

pdf "Contractualism's (Not So) Slippery Slope." Legal Theory, Vol 18, issue 03, 2012, pp. 263-292. At:

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

pdf "Political Constructivism." For the Blackwell Companion to Rawls, eds. David Reidy and Jon Mandle, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013

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

pdf "Contractualism and Political Liberalism." For the Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy, eds. Gerald Gaus and Fred D’Agostino, New York: Taylor and Francis, 2013

pdf "Moral Assurance Problems in Global Context," for Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century, ed. Sharon Lloyd, Cambridge University Press, 2012

pdf "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

pdf "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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work in Progress

“Rawls, Lerner, and the Tax and Spend Booby-Trap,” for A Theory of Justice at 50, Cambridge University Press

“Money as a Currency of Justice,” for the Journal of Contemporary Issues

pdf“Money in the Social Contract,” for The Philosophy of Money and Finance, eds. Joakim
Sandburg and Lisa Warenski, Oxford University Press

pdf“Fragmentation and Fairness in Global Economic Governance,” for Justice in Global
Economic Governance, eds. Axel Berger, Clara Brandi, Eszter Kollar

pdf"Money, Recognition, and the Outer Limits of Obliviousness"

pdf “I Owe You”

pdf "The Fairness Argument for International Money"

pdf "Money as Promise: Innes and the 'Fundamental Nature of a Financial Transaction'"

Further Projects (some in gestation stage)

You Owe Me One: Accounting and Accountability

"Taxation" by Monetary Policy: Distribution for Lovers of Liberty

How Money Corrupts

Ideational Structure

Should Basic Income Replace Social Insurance?

Academic Miscellany

pdf "APA Comments on Leif Wenar's Blood Oil"

pdf "Sparing the Poor: APA Comments for Darrel Moellendorf."

pdf "Multi-Functionalism about Human Rights: APA Comments for James Nickel."

pdf "Multi-Functionalism about Human Rights: APA Comments for Charles Beitz."

pdf "Deflating Fact-Insensitivity"

Other Very (Very) Important Things

Money from Nothing: Why We Should Learn to Stop Worrying About Debt and Love the Federal Reserve, with Robert Hockett (Melville House Press, 2020)

Surfing with Sartre

by Doubleday/Penguin Random House, 2017. Also by Lemniscaat (Netherlands), New Century Publishing (Taiwan), and Pegasus (Turkey). A treatise on what surfer know-how says about questions for the ages (about freedom, control, flow, happiness, being, transcendence, society, the meaning of life) and why all this means we must actually do something about climate change, namely: work less and go surfing instead, in a shorter workweek and more efficient style of capitalism.

Assholes: A Theory

a bestseller by Doubleday, USA, 2012. Also by Brealey (UK/commonwealth), Rizzoli (Italy), Riemann (Germany), Psichogios (Greece), Chungrim (South Korea), Citic (China), Tanapaev (Estonia), Pegasus (Turkey), and Port - excerpt (Russia)

Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump

by Doubleday/Penguin Random House, 2016. Also by Random House Verlagsgruppe (Germany), Rizzoli (Italy), Malpaso (Spain), Korea Economic & Business Daily (Korea), Rock-Paper-Scissors (China). An essay on the appeal and the danger of one conspicuous figure in contemporary public life, with lessons from the social contract tradition of Hobbes and Rousseau -- or, why America most certainly should not play Republic Roulette.

Assholes: A Theory -- a documentary by John Walker, featuring John Cleese, yours truly, and many others (available soon...) http://johnwalkerproductions.com/portfolio/assholes/

pdf "On the Philosophical Interest and Surprising Significance of the Asshole." In the Harvard Review of Philosophy, Volume XXIII 2016

pdf "Why Nothing Exists: A Rigorous Demonstration" In Opción and in Suburbano (both in Spanish)

Blog: On Assholes.com

Charity: Help A Village With.Us
Other Experience
Profile Photo: James Hammack

Last updated