The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy

In Miranda Fricker Michael Brady (ed.), The Epistemic Life of Groups. pp. 133 - 149 (2016)
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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. In this chapter, I argue that the attempt to defend democracy on epistemic instrumentalist grounds is self-undermining. I also develop an alternative – procedural – epistemic defence of democracy. I show that there is a prima facie epistemic case for democracy when there is no procedure-independent epistemic authority on the issue to be decided.
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