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2 Scopus citations


I examine from a conventionalist perspective the Nash bargaining problem that philosophers use as a tool for analyzing fair division. From this perspective, the solutions to bargaining problems are conventions that can emerge from inductive learning and focal point effects. I contrast the conventionalist approach to analyzing the bargaining problem with the better-known rational choice approach, which I criticize for having overly demanding epistemic presuppositions and for producing disappointing results. I apply a simple model of inductive learning to specific bargaining problems to show that agents can learn from repeated experience to follow a variety of bargaining conventions in a given problem. I conclude that such agents can come to regard two such conventions as focal for the bargaining problem, one that assigns claimants equal shares of a good and another egalitarian solution of equal payoff gains, and that the egalitarian solution tends to prevail when these two solutions differ. I conclude further that the above analysis lends support for admitting interpersonal utility comparisons into the analysis of fair division problems, and also suggests a focal point explanation of the wide acceptance of the Aristotelian proportionality principle of distributive justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-263
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Philosophy and Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aristotelian proportionality principle
  • bargaining problem
  • convention
  • egalitarian solution
  • focal point
  • inductive learning
  • interpersonal utility comparisons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)


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