Aaron James

picture of Aaron  James

Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Chair (2022-3)


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 working on two academic books on money. A first book is on money's role and management in the global economy, especially in view of central and public banking. This extends my practice-based analysis in _Fairness In Practice_ to associative obligations generated by the state system and their upshot for public finance, basic income and social insurance, and climate adaptation. A second book is on money's social and normative foundations, debt and morality ("what we owe each other"), and why moral "accountability" can be seen as a sort of debt-accounting that organizes our personal, social, and political relationships.

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 for a general audience (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.

I plan to set out my grand "low rationalist" vision in several books:

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

A book of philosophical autobiography about my misadventures in Sumatra is 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, 9, no 1, 2022

pdf“Rawls, Lerner, and the Tax and Spend Booby-Trap: What Happened to Monetary Policy?,” A Theory of Justice at 50, ed. Paul Wiethman, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming

pdf“Money as a Currency of Justice,” Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, forthcoming

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

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

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), forthcoming

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

pdf "Why We Must Lift the Resource Curse," Beyond Blood Oil, eds. Laurie Shrage and Naomi Zack, Rowman and Littlefield, 2018

pdf "Sovereignty and Associative Obligations," 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," Just Financial Markets?, ed. Lisa Herzog, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017

pdf "Fortune and Fairness in Global Economic Life," Journal of Moral Philosophy, 14, no 3, 2017

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

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, 30, no 3 2016

pdf "How To Construct Global Justice," San Diego Law Review, 52/1013, Fall 2015

pdf “A Theory of Fairness in Trade,” Moral Philosophy and Politics, 1, no 2, 2014. A special issue on fairness in trade, guest edited by David Miller.

pdf “Replies to Critics,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 44, no 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, 18, no 03, 2012: 263-292. At: http://journals.cambridge.org/repo_A867FcA4

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

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

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

pdf "Contractualism and Political Liberalism," 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," 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

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

pdf
"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 3, 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

pdfThe Moral Necessity of Climate Efficiency

pdf“Fragmentation and Fairness in Global Economic Governance,” 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)

Republican Money and Basic Income

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: An Aquatic Inquiry Into a Life of Meaning

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," Harvard Review of Philosophy, Vol 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
07/08/2022