Philosophical Studies

, Volume 167, Issue 3, pp 683–699 | Cite as

Uniqueness and symmetry in bargaining theories of justice



For contractarians, justice is the result of a rational bargain. The goal is to show that the rules of justice are consistent with rationality. The two most important bargaining theories of justice are David Gauthier’s and those that use the Nash’s bargaining solution. I argue that both of these approaches are fatally undermined by their reliance on a symmetry condition. Symmetry is a substantive constraint, not an implication of rationality. I argue that using symmetry to generate uniqueness undermines the goal of bargaining theories of justice.


David Gauthier John Nash John Harsanyi Thomas Schelling Bargaining Symmetry 



Special thanks are due to Jerry Gaus and David Schmidtz for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. I would also like to thank Steve Wall, Uriah Kriegel, David Copp, Chris Morris, Ryan Muldoon, Chris Freiman, Kevin Vallier, Keith Hankins, Danny Shahar, Chad Van Schoelandt, Victor Kumar, Michael Bukoski, Bill Glod, Mark Budolfson, and an anonymous referee for comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.213 Social SciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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