Public Discourse and Its Problems

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It is widely believed that open and public speech is at the heart of the democratic ideal. Public discourse is instrumentally epistemically valuable for identifying good policies, as well as necessary for resisting domination (e.g., by vocally challenging decision-makers, demanding public justifications, and using democratic speech to hold leaders accountable). But in our highly polarized and socially fragmented political environment, an increasingly pressing question is: do actual democratic societies live up to the ideal of inclusive public speech? In this essay, I explore Maxime Lepoutre's (2021) defence of discursive democracy from the challenge of defective public discourse. I argue that political ignorance, dogmatism, and social fragmentation present more formidable challenges to discursive democracy than Lepoutre acknowledges. As a result, his account occasionally veers from warranted optimism to unwarranted idealism.
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Archival date: 2021-07-07
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