The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy

Fabienne Peter

in The Epistemic Life of Groups

Published in print February 2016 | ISBN: 9780198759645
Published online April 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191820380 | DOI:

Series: Mind Association Occasional Series

The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy

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Does political decision-making require experts or can a democracy be trusted to make correct decisions? This question has a long-standing tradition in political philosophy, going back at least to Plato’s Republic. Critics of democracy tend to argue that democracy cannot be trusted in this way, while advocates tend to argue that it can. Both camps agree that it is the epistemic quality of the outcomes of political decision-making processes that underpins the legitimacy of political institutions. In recent political philosophy, epistemic democrats have embraced this instrumentalist way of thinking about democracy. This chapter argues that the attempt to defend democracy on epistemic instrumentalist grounds is self-undermining. It also develops an alternative—procedural—epistemic defence of democracy. The chapter shows that there is a prima facie epistemic case for democracy when there is no procedure-independent epistemic authority on the issue to be decided.

Keywords: democracy; political; decision-making; instrumentalist; procedure; authority

Chapter.  7471 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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