Democracy is not naturally plausible. Why turn such important matters over to masses of people who have no expertise? Many theories of democracy answer by appealing to the intrinsic value of democratic procedure, leaving aside whether it makes good decisions. In Democratic Authority, DavidEstlund offers a groundbreaking alternative based on the idea that democratic authority and legitimacy must depend partly on democracy's tendency to make good decisions.Just as with verdicts in jury trials, Estlund argues, the authority (...) and legitimacy of a political decision does not depend on the particular decision being good or correct. But the "epistemic value" of the procedure--the degree to which it can generally be accepted as tending toward a good decision--is nevertheless crucial. Yet if good decisions were all that mattered, one might wonder why those who know best shouldn't simply rule.Estlund's theory--which he calls "epistemic proceduralism"--avoids epistocracy, or the rule of those who know. He argues that while some few people probably do know best, this can be used in political justification only if their expertise is acceptable from all reasonable points of view. If we seek the best epistemic arrangement in this respect, it will be recognizably democratic--with laws and policies actually authorized by the people subject to them. (shrink)
The present thesis is intended as a contribution toward a Rousseauean theory of democracy. The central problem discussed is how the act of voting must be interpreted in democratic theory. The notion of a theoretical interpretation of voting is discussed in Chapter One. A theory of democracy must include an interpretation of the act of voting if any praise or criticism of democracy is to be possible. The theoretical interpretation is distinct from an empirical account of voting behavior, and also (...) distinct from a moral or prudential imperative. It is left as an open question whether one ought, morally or prudentially, to vote in the way that democratic theory interprets voting, or indeed whether one ought to vote at all. ;Social choice theory typically assumes that votes are expressions of individual preferences--that each individual expresses his or her narrowly self-interested preferences, and a proper aggregation of these will yield a utility maximizing result. In Chapter Two it is argued that, for reasons stemming from analysis of the concept of democratic voting, no understanding of "preference" is acceptable as a theoretical interpretation of voting. Six such understandings are disqualified, and the interpretation of votes as statements on the common interest is argued to succeed where these fail. In Chapter Three Richard Wollheim's puzzle of the minority democrat is discussed in relation to several closely related puzzles which apply to both democracy and utilitarianism. All three puzzles are argued to be dissolved if votes are interpreted as statements on the common interest. The solution to Wollheim's paradox, called the Correction Solution, gives rise to the disturbing possibility that the minority is interpreted as simply deferring to the majority. This danger is discussed in detail in Chapter Four, and again the interpretation of votes as statements on the common interest is argued to be uniquely qualified to avoid it. (shrink)
In Human Nature and the Limits of Political Philosophy, I argued that justice might require things of people that they cannot bring themselves to do. A central step was to argue that this does not entail an inability to ‘do’ the putatively required thing. David Wiens challenges that argument of mine, and this piece is my reply.
Selections from Hume's major writings are grouped under the headings: Reason and Experience, Reason and Sentiment, and Reason and Religion. There is also a short conclusion entitled "Skepticism." A Treatise on Human Nature, An Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding, and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals are from the 1962 and 1947 translations by André Leroy. The Dialogues on Natural Religion were translated in 1912 by Maxime David. Part I gives Hume's account of impressions, ideas, and their relations. (...) Also covered are the crucial arguments on causality from the Treatise and the Enquiry Concerning Understanding--including the role of experience of constant conjunction and the role of instinct in our construction and use of the notion of causality. Part II contains the famous statement from the Treatise that moral matters are "more rightly felt than judged of" and a treatment of the natural and artificial virtues. Considering its central place in recent ethics, the English-speaking reader would miss the familiar lines remarking the passage from "is" to "ought." Part III and the Conclusion are drawn entirely from the Dialogues on Natural Religion.--M. B. M. (shrink)
F. A. Hayek is uniquely responsible for his fellow economists grasping the importance of the decentralization of knowledge: as Hayek shows in his pathbreaking “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” knowledge nowhere exists as a coherent whole and to pretend otherwise is a most serious error. Hayek also shares responsibility for the popularity of a strong form of the methodological individualist research program which asserts that since collectives as such have no impact on the choices of individuals, investigators ought to (...) purge any reliance on collectives from our analysis. (shrink)
It used to be that a book on utopia that did not quote Oscar Wilde's homily about a map of the world without utopia was itself not worth glancing at, for it left out the one thing we thought we could all agree on. But what if the world map only serves to reinforce the systems of domination inherent to colonialism, racism, capitalism, and patriarchy? And why should the quest for utopia take us to the high seas anyway, rather than (...) surveying those existing social formations that resist oppression?For David Bell, Wilde was wrong. Utopia is on the world map, but it lies neither in the unexplored place on the horizon for which humanity is forever setting sail nor in some nonexistent linear future: following Tom Moylan's... (shrink)
In Democratic Authority, DavidEstlund 2008 presents a major new defense of democracy, called epistemic proceduralism. The theory claims that democracy exercises legitimate authority in virtue of possessing a modest epistemic power: its decisions are the product of procedures that tend to produce just laws at a better than chance rate, and better than any other type of government that is justifiable within the terms of public reason. The balance Estlund strikes between epistemic and non-epistemic justifications of (...) democracy is open to question, both for its neglect of the roles of non-epistemic values of equality and collective autonomy in democracy, and for the ways his use of the public reason standard overshadows empirically based epistemic arguments for democracy. Nevertheless, Estlund presents telling critiques of rival theories and develops a sophisticated alternative that illuminates some central normative features of democracy. (shrink)