Public reason and order ethics: A critical assessment

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the problem of moral surpluses with a particular focus on Habermas's discourse ethics. It focuses on the discourse ethics with the conception of order ethics, which relies on a two-dimensional normativity of actions and rules. A modern society that wants to profit from deep specialization and competition has to switch to a system of governance by rules. With the use of pre-modern governance mechanisms, the benefits of modern societies cannot be appropriated. The chapter explores this framework, an ethics of actions fits in according to the theory of incomplete contracts. Incomplete contracts leave room for ethical behaviour of individuals and companies. The chapter argues that pursuing self-interest is compatible with important traditions of ethics. The moral surplus that Habermas argues for is conceptualized in opposition to interests, advantages or incentives. In an order ethics, moral surpluses might be made productive.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Reason and Applied Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationThe Ways of Practical Reason in a Pluralist Society
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781317073451
ISBN (Print)9780754672876
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


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