Justification, choice and promise: Three devices of the consent tradition in a diverse society

Gerald Gaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The twin ideas at the heart of the social contract tradition are that persons are naturally free and equal, and that genuine political obligations must in some way be based on the consent of those obligated. The Lockean tradition has held that consent must be in the form of explicit choice; Kantian contractualism has insisted on consent as rational endorsement. In this paper I seek to bring the Kantian and Lockean contract traditions together. Kantian rational justification and actual choice are complementary devices through which our freedom and equality can be reconciled with moral and political authority. We should not think that there is simply one way by which relations of moral and political authority can be reconciled with our status as free and equal. I defend three distinct devices through which freedom and authority may be reconciled: justification to others, social choice and promise. All three are aspects of the 'consent tradition' broadly construed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-127
Number of pages19
JournalCritical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Authority
  • Consent
  • Contractualism
  • Public justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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