Thursday, March 25, 2021

Pragmatism and Epistemic Democracy

The new issue of "Raisons Politiques" (2021/1) features articles on "Pragmatism and Epistemic Democracy", edited by Annabelle Lever and Dominik Gerber:

* Introduction - Annabelle Lever, Dominik Gerber

* Pragmatism, Truth, and Democracy - Cheryl Misak & Robert B. Talisse

There is growing interest in deliberative democracy, especially the pragmatist version that argues that democratic freedoms and procedures are more likely to get us to the right view of what is true, just, or right. In this time in our history, a focus on truth is more important than ever. We (Robert Talisse and Cheryl Misak) have put forward a position on which we can justify democratic freedoms and procedures on the basis of epistemic reasons. Our very practices of belief and reasoning require that we regard each other as social equals and that the voices of all are taken seriously in our quest for truth. Lever and Chin, in a way that is broadly sympathetic to our general project, have expressed a worry that we are “wrong to suppose that epistemic considerations are better placed than moral considerations when justifying coercive power over others”. In response, we will first distinguish two sites where an epistemic justification of democracy might operate. On our view, the epistemic argument shows why we should be democrats, and the question of how democrats can justify the exercise of coercion is a different matter. We argue that the appropriate reasons we as a society give to justify coercive power over others will indeed be moral. Our point has always been that beliefs about what it is morally right to do must be responsive to reasons, if they are beliefs that are aimed at getting things right. Then the argument for democracy comes in: the best method for getting things right is, broadly speaking, a democratic one. But the reasons that will be in play will be reasons about equality, autonomy, utility, and so on.

* Democracy and Truth - Annabelle Lever

According to Misak and Talisse, we can get from the fact that we all take what we believe to be true, whatever our different and incompatible beliefs, to reasons to support democratic, as opposed to undemocratic, government. Hence, they claim that democracy is necessary, but not sufficient, for epistemically justified belief. This article clarifies and sceptically assesses these claims.

* The Pragmatist Demos and the Boundary Problem - Matthew Festenstein

The pragmatist argument that a democratic ethos and institutions are in some sense a form of inquiry remains one of the most powerful but elusive themes in its social and political thought. As a term and concept, democracy predates the modern state but the project of justifying democracy is paradigmatically a project of justifying it within and for the modern state. Drawing on Misak and Talisse’s important development of the inquiry argument, this article draws out how the pragmatist epistemic argument breaks with this traditional conception of democratic justification, and how its commitment to the removal of internal obstacles to epistemic inclusion provides general reasons to question political boundaries.

* Democracy and Epistemic Egalitarianism - Dominik Gerber

Because of its non-instrumentalism, Cheryl Misak’s and Robert Talisse’s Peircean theory of democratic justification constitutes a unique and important variety of epistemic democracy. At its core is the claim that democracy is a constituent component of the Peircean epistemic ideal of inquiry. This article offers a relational egalitarian reading of this ideal and argues that Peircean epistemic egalitarianism fails to provide unambiguous support for our commitment to uphold politically egalitarian institutions. It cautions against using conceptual affinities between democratic equality, the self-reflexivity it enables among citizens, and worthwhile epistemic relationships as a basis for justifying democracy.

* The Paradoxes of Democratic Voting and the Peircean Justification of Democracy - Valeria Ottonelli

The Peircean defence of democracy purports to ground the appeal of democratic government on universal epistemic interests that we simply have qua individual epistemic agents. The problem with this view is that it seems to obliterate the distinctive way in which democratic deliberation and decision making socialise our knowledge and beliefs, making democracy a very special epistemic game, quite different from the games that we play as individual knowers in non-political, non-democratic contexts. The shortcomings of the Peircean defence of democracy fully emerge when confronted with the paradoxes of democratic voting, which can only be overcome if we model the democratic processes of deliberation and belief formation as deeply collectivised and socialised. Thus, the neglect of the distinctive way in which democratic deliberation and decision making socialise knowledge grounds the Peircean defence of democracy on an inaccurate account of democracy’s epistemology, and leaves it helpless before the paradoxes of majoritian voting.

* Epistemic Democracy Without Truth: The Deweyan Approach [Paper] - Michael Fuerstein

In this essay I situate John Dewey’s pragmatist approach to democratic epistemology in relation to contemporary “epistemic democracy”. Like epistemic democrats, Dewey characterizes democracy as a form of social inquiry. But whereas epistemic democrats suggest that democracy aims to “track the truth”, Dewey rejects the notion of “tracking” or “corresponding” to truth in political and other domains. For Dewey, the measure of successful decision-making is not some fixed independent standard of truth or correctness but, instead, our own reflective satisfaction with the practical results. I argue that this approach better reconciles epistemic democracy with traditional models of popular authority (“the will of the people”) and bolsters the defenses of the epistemic democrat against elitist alternatives.

See also:

"Pragmatist Epistemology and Democratic Theory" by Cheryl Misak & Robert Talisse (Journal of Political Philosophy, 22, 3 (2014), pp. 366-376.

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