The Invisible Foole

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4 Scopus citations


I review the classic skeptical challenges of Foole in Leviathan and the Lydian Shepherd in Republic against the prudential rationality of justice. Attempts to meet these challenges contribute to the reconciliation project (Kavka in Hobbesian moral and political theory, 1986) that tries to establish that morality is compatible with rational prudence. I present a new Invisible Foole challenge against the prudential rationality of justice. Like the Lydian Shepherd, the Invisible Foole can violate justice offensively (Kavka, Hobbesian moral and political theory, 1986; Law and Philosophy, 14:5-34, 1995) without harming his reputation for justice. And like the Foole, the Invisible Foole dismisses the possibility that being just preserves goods intrinsic to justice, and will be just only if he fears that others will punish his injustice by withholding the external goods like labor and material goods that he would otherwise receive for their performance in covenants. I argue that given a plausible folk-theorem interpretation, Hobbes' response to the Foole's challenge is inconclusive, and depends crucially upon common knowledge assumptions that may or may not obtain in actual societies. I present two analogous folk-theorem arguments in response to the Invisible Foole's challenge, one using the idea that the Invisible Foole's power of concealment might be transitory, and the other using the idea that members of society might stop performing in covenants with anyone, thus punishing the Invisible Foole indirectly, if the Invisible Foole commits sufficiently many injustices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-58
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Folk-theorem
  • Indirect punishment
  • Invisible Foole
  • Justice-Platonism
  • Justice-conventionalism
  • Offensive violation
  • Reconciliation project

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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