Democratic legitimacy and proceduralist social epistemology

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6 (3):329-353 (2007)
Abstract
A conception of legitimacy is at the core of normative theories of democracy. Many different conceptions of legitimacy have been put forward, either explicitly or implicitly. In this article, I shall first provide a taxonomy of conceptions of legitimacy that can be identified in contemporary democratic theory. The taxonomy covers both aggregative and deliberative democracy. I then argue for a conception of democratic legitimacy that takes the epistemic dimension of public deliberation seriously. In contrast to standard interpretations of epistemic democracy, however, the conception I put forward avoids procedure-independent standards of correctness. Instead, it relies on a procedural social epistemology and defines legitimacy entirely in terms of the fairness of procedures. I call this conception of democratic legitimacy `Pure Epistemic Proceduralism'. I shall argue that it should be preferred over `Rational Epistemic Proceduralism', the conception of legitimacy that underlies the standard interpretation of epistemic democracy. Key Words: legitimacy • deliberative democracy • epistemic democracy • social epistemology.
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