Epistemic Trust and Liberal Justification

Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (2):179-199 (2012)
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In this paper I offer a distinctive epistemic rationale for the liberal practice of constant and ostentatious reason-giving in the political context. Epistemic trust is essential to democratic governance because as citizens we can only make informed decisions by relying on the claims of moral, scientific, and practical authorities around us. Yet rational epistemic trust is also uniquely fragile in the political context in light of both the radical inclusiveness of the relevant epistemic community (i.e., everyone who participates in the political process) and the conflicting interests bound up in policy debate. I argue that liberal justification is a necessary condition for warranted epistemic trust in this context, and therefore a necessary condition for healthy public inquiry about politically significant questions.

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Michael Fuerstein
St. Olaf College


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