In defense of democracy as a way of life: A reply to Talisse's pluralist objection

Robert Talisse objects that Deweyan democrats, or those who endorse John Dewey’s philosophy of democracy, cannot consistently hold that (i) “democracy is a way of life” and (ii) democracy as a way of life is compatible with pluralism, at least as contemporary political theorists define that term. What Talisse refers to as his “pluralist objection” states that Deweyan democracy resembles a thick theory of democracy, that is, a theory establishing a set of prior restraints on the values that can count as legitimate within a democratic community. In this paper, it is argued that his pluralist objection succumbs to some combination of four charges. The first two sections of the paper are devoted to presentations of Talisse’s two formulations of his pluralist objection, as they appear in his essay “Can Democracy be a Way of Life?” and his book A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy , respectively. The four charges against the pluralist objection receive attention in the second section. In the third section, Dewey’s pluralist procedure is articulated and illustrated using a recent Canadian public policy debate, followed by some concluding remarks on the acceptability of relying on contemporary political examples of Deweyan democracy in action.
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