Aaron James

picture of Aaron  James

Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy

PH.D., Harvard University

Fax: (949) 824-6520
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
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'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 a book on the morality and political economy of distribution for a world of increasing ecological scarcity and lower growth rates (at least in the advanced world). I'm especially interested in money and banking (a la Modern Money Theory), international sources of inequality and the future of social insurance. This extends my practice-based analysis in _Fairness In Practice_ to "associative obligations" generated by the state system and their upshot for policy and institutions.

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

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, political philosophy, and the foundations of value. I'm dremaing of (and if life is long enough, maybe planning on) setting out my grand "low rationalist" vision in an olden-style three volume treatise:

Vol. 1: The Skill of Embodied Reason
Vol. 2: Money In Practice: Fair Finance in a Global Economy
Vol. 3: Reason In Practice: the Constructed Foundations of Objective Values

Academic Publications

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

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, Claire Finkelstein and Sharon Lloyd, eds., 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

pdf "Preparing for Mass Unemployment: Precautionary Basic Income"

"Should Basic Income Replace Social Insurance?"

"Ideational Structure"

pdf "The Fairness Argument for an International Monetary Co-op"

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

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

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