Christopher McMahon

Christopher McMahon
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy


  • Political and Social Philosophy
  • Moral Philosophy


  • PhD, University of Pittsburgh


I work primarily on social and political philosophy. I also have an interest in meta-ethics, aesthetics, and continental philosophy.



1.       Reasonableness and Fairness: A Historical Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

This book posits a distinction between two kinds of moral concern, direct concern and reciprocal concern, and argues that fairness and reasonableness, along with distributive justice, constitute central concepts of the morality of reciprocal concern. It proposes that reciprocal concern has a history—some things that were wrong in the past are not wrong now, and vice versa--and traces some of its history in the West.

2.       Public Capitalism: The Political Authority of Corporate Executives. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

This short book argues that the social authority exercised by the senior executives of profit-seeking corporations should be understood as a form of political authority and evaluated for legitimacy in the same way as political authority. It also considers the possibility that some commonsense moral requirements may apply differently in corporate contexts.

3.       Reasonable Disagreement: A Theory of Political Morality. Cambridge University Press, 2009. (Paperback edition, 2012.)

This book defines reasonable disagreement as disagreement among competently reasoned answers to a particular moral question, and it explores how this might be understood. Topics addressed include the possibility of variation in competently reasoned answers to moral and political questions (or in the questions themselves) in different cultures and different historical periods, and the possibility of rectifying past wrongs.

4.       Collective Rationality and Collective Reasoning. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

This book posits a distinction between individual and collective rationality and uses it to develop, in the first part, accounts of political topics such as authority, legitimacy and democracy, and in the second part, of the phenomenon of collective reasoning and of the rationality of participating in such reasoning. Among the topics explored is the possibility that the rationality of participating in collective reasoning admits of cultural variability.

5.       Authority and Democracy: A General Theory of Government and Management. Princeton University Press,1994.

This book explores three different ways of understanding authority relations and uses it to argue that government and management should be understood as two complementary parts of a single, society-wide structure of what the book calls “subordinating authority.” Of principal concern is the extent to which managerial authority should be exercised democratically.


1.       “Rawls, Reciprocity, and the Barely Reasonable,” Utilitas (2014).

2.       “Habermas, Rawls, and Moral Impartiality,” in Habermas versus Rawls: Disputing the Political, Finlayson and Freyenhagen, eds. Routledge, 2011.

3.       “Disagreement about Fairness,” in Philosophical Topics (2010).

4.       “Nondomination and Normativity,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (2007).

5.       “Pettit on Collectivizing Reason,” Social Theory and Practice (2005).

6.       “Shared Agency and Rational Cooperation,” Noûs (2005).

7.       “The Indeterminacy of Republican Policy,” Philosophy and Public Affairs (2005).

8.       “Why There is No Issue Between Habermas and Rawls,” The Journal of Philosophy (2002).