Introduction: Epistemic approaches to democracy

Episteme 5 (1):pp. 1-4 (2008)
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The papers published in this special issue can fairly be unified under the heading “Epistemic Democracy,” but there is more variety among them than this might indicate. They exhibit the broad range of ways in which epistemological considerations are figuring in contemporary philosophical discussions of democracy. The authors range from young and promising to established and distinguished. I'd like to introduce a few of the issues that run through the papers, sprinkling references to the actual papers along the way. From the beginning, democratic forms of government have included discussion and debate. In real life the value of democracy can hardly be separated from the value of free public discussion, prior to voting, about the issues and candidates. This is not to say that either the discussion or the vote have always been inspiring, but whatever value democracy is thought to have, it seems inseparable from public political discussion. One way of accounting for the value of the discussion is to suppose that voters exchange reasons (not always cooperatively) about what to do. Even a quick look at the content of political debate seems to confirm that it is mostly about which decision would be best for the country or city whose laws or leaders are in question


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David Estlund
Brown University

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