Project Description


Reflective equilibrium
51 years after A Theory of Justice


University of Bern, Switzerland, 12.–14. May 2022


Call for Abstracts

A lasting influence of John Rawls’s seminal A Theory of Justice is the undiminished popularity of reflective equilibrium in ethics. The basic idea is that moral judgements and principles are justified by being brought into agreement in a process of mutual adjustments. Historically, RE goes back to Nelson Goodman, who described reflective equilibrium as a method for justifying logical inferences and theories. Other philosophers have appealed to RE in almost all fields of philosophy, and some consider RE to be the method of philosophy, as notably did David Lewis. Nonetheless, attempts at an in-depth analysis of RE have been scarce, and very few have made a sustained effort to develop the method in detail – which is surprising for such an influential idea.

The aim of this conference is to bring together defenders and detractors of RE from all fields of philosophy and to discuss basic questions, possible developments and applications, as well as challenges and defences.

Topics and questions that may be addressed include (but are not limited to):

  • Specifications of RE: how to spell out more precisely what RE is?
  • Conceptual issues: how exactly should we understand, e.g. considered judgements or the relation of agreement between judgements and principles?
  • Scope of RE: what role can RE play in various fields of philosophy or inquiry more general? What are the prospects of relying on RE in general epistemology?
  • Process and state: what exactly is the relation between the process of adjusting judgements and principles and the target state of an equilibrium?
  • RE’s place in Epistemology: What is the relation between RE and more general coherentist and holist accounts in epistemology?
  • Consequences: What do insights about RE imply for philosophical debates, e.g. about the epistemology and metaphysics of morality, the structure of justification etc. 
  • Objections: what are the most serious challenges to RE? How can they be answered?
  • Formal approaches: what can methods from, e.g. formal epistemology or belief revision theory contribute to a better understanding of RE?
  • Applications: how can RE effectively be used to do philosophical work in specific cases? what guidance can RE provide for deliberations about particular moral issues?Relation to neighbouring debates: what can we learn for RE from debates about, e.g. conceptual engineering or theory choice? what do discussions about RE imply for these debates?


Confirmed speakers:

Catherine Z. Elgin (Harvard)
Finnur Dellsén (Reykjavik/Lillehammer)
Federica Malfatti (Innsbruck)
Folke Tersman (Uppsala)
Kenneth Walden (Dartmouth)
Sarah McGrath (Princeton)
Tanja Rechnitzer (Hannover)


Contributed talks:

we seek 5 contributed talks (40 min. incl. discussion). Please submit an abstract of max. 1000 words (incl. notes, excl. references) prepared for blind review at


PhD session:

there will be a pre-read session reserved to discussing PhD projects. For this we will accept 2 papers. Please submit an abstract of max. 1000 words (incl. notes, excl. references) prepared for blind review at
The full paper will be due on April 14., 2022.

Deadline for abstracts: 30. November 2021

Decisions will be communicated by the end of 2021.


Scientific committee:

Catherine Z. Elgin (Harvard); Folke Tersman (Uppsala); Georg Brun (Bern); Tanja Rechnitzer (Hannover).



Support for travel and accommodation is available for contributors without institutional funding.


Organized by:

SNSF-Project “How Far Does Reflective Equilibrium Take Us?” (Institute of Philosophy, University of Bern; DebateLab at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) and Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm.


Contact for additional information: