Author Archives: Peter Stone

About Peter Stone

I work in various contemporary areas of political philosophy, including democratic theory, theories of justice, rational choice theory, and the philosophy of social science. My present research project deals with the virtues and limitations of random selection.


Here’s a small commercial announcement that might be of interest to you. You may be familiar with Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI), which “is designed to encourage undergraduate students from under-represented groups to consider future study in the field of philosophy.” You can read more about it here:

There’s currently a fundraising drive on to support PIKSI. You can read more about this drive at:

This is certainly a worthy cause, given some of the recent less-than-edifying-reports of the experiences of women in the Philosophy world, and so please do consider supporting it. read more...

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EPSA Call for Papers–Political Theory

Good Afternoon:

The call for papers has gone out for the 4th Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association. It will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 19-21, 2014. This is the first year that the conference has had a political theory category for proposals. I have been asked to serve as head of the political theory section, and so I am anxious to see political theory make a big splash at the conference.

The proposal submission deadline is December 13, 2013. For further details, or to propose a paper and/or panel, please visit And if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. read more...

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The Lottery as a Democratic Institution

Last fall, we held a workshop at Trinity College Dublin on “The Lottery as a Democratic Institution.” The workshop was organized by me, Gil Delannoi (Sciences Po), and Oliver Dowlen (Queen Mary, University of London), and sponsored by Sciences Po, the Policy Institute, and Trinity’s Arts and Social Sciences Benefactions Fund. Our report from the workshop has now been published by the Policy Institute. It can be found online here:

Hope it proves of interest. Comments more than welcome.

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Equality Exchange

Has something happened to the Equality Exchange? I haven’t visited the site for a while, but now I cannot find it. The last address I had for it was Sorry if this is old news.

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The Lottery as a Democratic Institution

As you may know, I am organizing a workshop at Trinity College Dublin on “The Lottery as a Democratic Institution.” This workshop will be co-organized by Gil Delannoi (Sciences Po) and Oliver Dowlen. The workshop will be held on October 11-12, 2012. Details about the workshop can be found at Please consider attending, and spread the word about the event. Should you have any questions about it, please let me know.

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OPR VIII.23: The Justification of Coercive Laws

Overview of §23

I’m going to structure my discussion of this section a little differently. I’m also going to be a bit polemical about it. Perhaps this treatment will galvanize some discussion about this section, which I believe is rather significant for Gaus’ argument.

In the preface to the book, Gaus decries the tendency of political philosophers to turn into hedgehogs, each championing one among many potential political creeds (liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism, Marxism, communitarianism, etc.). Gaus then announces his attention to take a different, “foxier” path, one that does not endorse a particular political philosophy, but asks how we should think about the moral order—including the political order—in a world lacking reasonable agreement about many basic moral questions. In doing so, he eschews any desire to champion, hedgehog-style, any single political philosophy—including libertarianism, a philosophy with which he is prominently associated (p. xv). I distinctly remember reading this passage months ago and saying to myself, the philosopher doth protest too much. And lo and behold, many months later, I am not surprised to see that Gaus’ in-depth examination of the nature of morality is yielding libertarian political conclusions.

I should be clear here—I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Gaus attempting to defend libertarianism in this book. If something like reflective equilibrium is a legitimate method for producing valid moral claims, one would expect Gaus, a libertarian, to endorse a libertarian political system, and to argue that the moral situation in which we find ourselves today calls for libertarian principles. If his analysis of morality had yielded the conclusion that communism was the only acceptable economic system, one would expect Gaus to go over the argument seven or eight hundred times until he had found the problem with it. Again, let me repeat—there is nothing illegitimate about this as a method of argument. But it is a little disingenuous of Gaus to act as though he is merely following the argument where it goes, and the fact that it leads to pro-libertarian conclusions is just some sort of happy accident.

Technically, of course, Gaus’ argument does not unambiguously endorse any particular political order. But Gaus’ analysis of morality most definitely tilts in a libertarian-friendly direction. Reasonable people who aim to settle upon a political order, says Gaus, will consider which principles they could reasonably accept as the basis for such an order. They will do so on a principle-by-principle basis; they can do this, because Gaus eschews any efforts at evaluating competing political orders as a whole. Of course, Gaus says, they will endorse all the standard things that libertarians like to endorse—basic rights to life, liberty, and property. But will they endorse anything else? It should be clear that there will be a very serious obstacle to their doing so. Endowing the political order with any further powers will only be morally legitimate if every reasonable moral citizen would agree to such endowment. And there is an important class of people—libertarians like Gaus himself—who can be expected to object to any such expansions of state authority. In effect, libertarians can reasonably count upon other citizens endorsing a set of principles which, considered all by themselves, constitute the libertarian ideal point. Not surprisingly, libertarians will be reluctant to endorse any move away from this ideal point, and their endorsement is necessary in order for any such move to be legitimate.

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