Journal of Moral Philosophy 18 (4):363–386 (2020)

Adam Lovett
London School of Economics
A widely held picture in political science emphasizes the cognitive shortcomings of us citizens. We’re ignorant. We don’t know much about politics. We’re irrational. We bend the evidence to show our side in the best possible light. And we’re malleable. We let political elites determine our political opinions. This paper is about why these shortcomings matter to democratic values. Some think that democracy’s value consists entirely in its connection to equality. But the import of these shortcomings, I argue, cannot be explained in purely egalitarian terms. To explain it, we must instead think of democracy’s value partly in terms of collective autonomy. Our ignorance and irrationality undermine the epistemic conditions for realizing this kind of autonomy. They stop us knowing the outcomes of our political choices. Our irrationality and malleability undermine the independence conditions for realizing such autonomy. They mean our political choices are subject to problematic kinds of interpersonal influence. Thus, at root, the import of the widely held picture is that, if accurate, it closes off this critical aspect of democracy’s value.
Keywords democratic autonomy  democratic equality  elite cue theory  political ignorance  motivated reasoning
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1163/17455243-22220001
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Motivated Skepticism In The Evaluation Of Political Beliefs.Charles Taber & Milton Lodge - 2006 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 24 (2):157-184.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Loving State.Adam Lovett - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
Voter Motivation.Adam Lovett - 2022 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 21 (3).

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

An Autonomy-Centered Defense of Democracy.Christoph Hanisch - 2013 - International Philosophical Quarterly 53 (4):371-384.
Political Testimony.Han van Wietmarschen - 2019 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 18 (1):23-45.
Democracy, Education and the Need for Politics.Ingerid Straume - 2016 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 35 (1):29-45.
Beyond Marxist State Theory: State Autonomy in Democratic Societies.Samuel DeCanio - 2000 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 14 (2-3):215-236.
Reconsidering the Democratic Public.George E. Marcus & Russell Hanson (eds.) - 1993 - Pennsylvania State University Press.
Political Legitimacy, the Egalitarian Challenge, and Democracy.Dean J. Machin - 2012 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 29 (2):101-117.
The Politics of Getting It Right.Russell Muirhead - 2014 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 26 (1-2):115-128.


Added to PP index

Total views
90 ( #131,257 of 2,519,810 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
29 ( #30,368 of 2,519,810 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes