The Grounds of Institutional Moral Theory: On the Political Philosophy of Allen Buchanan

In: Danish Yearbook of Philosophy
Rainer ForstGoethe University, Frankfurt, Germany,

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In this paper, I discuss the conception of “institutional moral theory” that Allen Buchanan lays out in his work. I argue that it moves within a trilemma of grounding. The trilemma arises because the three routes to grounding we find in Buchanan’s works – the anthropological route appealing to human nature, the liberal route appealing to liberal values and the institutionalist route appealing to practice-immanent values – are mutually exclusive. But more than that, each horn of the trilemma encounters counterarguments from within Buchanan’s own thought, not only from the perspective of the other horns. Finally, I suggest a fourth alternative that refers to a notion of “justificatory responsibility” that Buchanan also suggests.

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