Making Reflective Equlibrium Precise: A Formal Model

  • Claus Beisbart orcid logo (University of Bern)
  • Gregor Betz (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)
  • Georg Brun (University of Bern)


Reflective equilibrium (RE) is often regarded as a powerful method in ethics, logic, and even philosophy in general. Despite this popularity, characterizations of the method have been fairly vague and unspecific so far. It thus may be doubted whether RE is more than a jumble of appealing but ultimately sketchy ideas that cannot be spelled out consistently. In this paper, we dispel such doubts by devising a formal model of RE. The model contains as components the agent’s commitments and a theory that tries to systematize the commitments. It yields a precise picture of how the commitments and the theory are adjusted to each other. The model differentiates between equilibrium as a target state and the dynamic equilibration process. First solutions to the model, obtained by computer simulation, show that the method allows for consistent specification and that the model’s implications are plausible in view of expectations on RE. In particular, the mutual adjustment of commitments and theory can improve one’s commitments, as proponents of RE have suggested. We argue that our model is fruitful not only because it points to issues that need to be dealt with for a better understanding of RE, but also because it provides the means to address these issues.

How to Cite:

Beisbart, C. & Betz, G. & Brun, G., (2021) “Making Reflective Equlibrium Precise: A Formal Model”, Ergo 8: 15. doi:

Download PDF
View PDF



Published on
13 Dec 2021
Peer Reviewed