Th is paper investigates the epistemic powers of democratic institutions through an assessment of three epistemic models of democracy : the Condorcet Jury Th eorem, the Diversity Trumps Ability Th eorem, and Dewey's experimentalist model. Dewey's model is superior to the others in its ability to model the epistemic functions of three constitutive features of democracy : the epistemic diversity of participants, the interaction of voting with discussion, and feedback mechanisms such as periodic elections and protests. It views democracy as (...) an institution for pooling widely distributed information about problems and policies of public interest by engaging the participation of epistemically diverse knowers. Democratic norms of free discourse, dissent, feedback, and accountability function to ensure collective, experimentallybased learning from the diverse experiences of diff erent knowers. I illustrate these points with a case study of community forestry groups in South Asia, whose epistemic powers have been hobbled by their suppression of women's participation. (shrink)
: The underdetermination argument establishes that scientists may use political values to guide inquiry, without providing criteria for distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate guidance. This paper supplies such criteria. Analysis of the confused arguments against value-laden science reveals the fundamental criterion of illegitimate guidance: when value judgments operate to drive inquiry to a predetermined conclusion. A case study of feminist research on divorce reveals numerous legitimate ways that values can guide science without violating this standard.
Responsible public policy making in a technological society must rely on complex scientific reasoning. Given that ordinary citizens cannot directly assess such reasoning, does this call the democratic legitimacy of technical public policies in question? It does not, provided citizens can make reliable second-order assessments of the consensus of trustworthy scientific experts. I develop criteria for lay assessment of scientific testimony and demonstrate, in the case of claims about anthropogenic global warming, that applying such criteria is easy for anyone of (...) ordinary education with access to the Web. However, surveys show a gap between the scientific consensus and public opinion on global warming in the U.S. I explore some causes of this gap and argue that democratic reforms of our culture of political discourse may be able to address it. (shrink)
In Epistemic injustice, Miranda Fricker makes a tremendous contribution to theorizing the intersection of social epistemology with theories of justice. Theories of justice often take as their object of assessment either interpersonal transactions (specific exchanges between persons) or particular institutions. They may also take a more comprehensive perspective in assessing systems of institutions. This systemic perspective may enable control of the cumulative effects of millions of individual transactions that cannot be controlled at the individual or institutional levels. This is true (...) not only with respect to the overall distribution of such goods as income and wealth, but also with respect to the goods of testimonial and hermeneutical justice. Cognitive biases that may be difficult for even epistemically virtuous individuals to correct on their own may be more susceptible to correction if we focus on the principles that should govern our systems of testimonial gathering and assessment. Hence, while Fricker?s focus on individual epistemic virtue is important, we also need to consider what epistemic justice as a virtue of social systems would require. My paper will indicate some directions forward on this front, focusing on the need for integration of diverse institutions and persons engaged in inquiry. (shrink)
Feminist epistemology has often been understood as the study of feminine "ways of knowing." But feminist epistemology is better understood as the branch of naturalized, social epistemology that studies the various influences of norms and conceptions of gender and gendered interests and experiences on the production of knowledge. This understanding avoids dubious claims about feminine cognitive differences and enables feminist research in various disciplines to pose deep internal critiques of mainstream research.
Feminist epistemology and philosophy of science studies the ways in which gender does and ought to influence our conceptions of knowledge, the knowing subject, and practices of inquiry and justification. It identifies ways in which dominant conceptions and practices of knowledge attribution, acquisition, and justification systematically disadvantage women and other subordinated groups, and strives to reform these conceptions and practices so that they serve the interests of these groups. Various practitioners of feminist epistemology and philosophy of science argue that dominant (...) knowledge practices disadvantage women by (1) excluding them from inquiry, (2) denying them epistemic authority, (3) denigrating their “feminine” cognitive styles and modes of knowledge, (4) producing theories of women that represent them as inferior, deviant, or significant only in the ways they serve male interests, (5) producing theories of social phenomena that render women's activities and interests, or gendered power relations, invisible, and (6) producing knowledge (science and technology) that is not useful for people in subordinate positions, or that reinforces gender and other social hierarchies. Feminist epistemologists trace these failures to flawed conceptions of knowledge, knowers, objectivity, and scientific methodology. They offer diverse accounts of how to overcome these failures. They also aim to (1) explain why the entry of women and feminist scholars into different academic disciplines, especially in biology and the social sciences, has generated new questions, theories, and methods, (2) show how gender has played a.. (shrink)
In Democratic Authority, David Estlund 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)
"The terms do not have to be spelled out, because they have been set not by a meeting of minds of the parties, but by a default baseline defined by corporate, property, and employment law that establishes the legal parameters for the constitution of capitalist firms." p. 2.
A distinctive feature of modern capitalist societies is the tendency of the market to take over the production, maintenance, and distribution of goods that were previously produced, maintained, and distributed by nonmarket means. Yet, there is a wide range of disagreement regarding the proper extent of the market in providing many goods. Labor has been treated as a commodity since the advent of capitalism, but not without significant and continuing challenges to this arrangement. Other goods whose production for and distribution (...) on the market are currently the subject of dispute include sexual intercourse, human blood, and human body parts such as kidneys. How can we determine which goods are properly subjects of market transactions and which are not? The purpose of this article is to propose a theory of what makes economic goods differ from other kinds of goods, which can help to answer this question. (shrink)
Individuals in capitalist societies are increasingly exposed to market risks. Luck egalitarian theories, which advocate neutralizing the influence of luck on distribution, fail to cope with this problem, because they focus on the wrong kinds of distributive constraints. Rules of distributive justice can specify (1) acceptable procedures for allocating goods, (2) the range of acceptable variations in distributive outcomes, or (3) which individuals should have which goods, according to individual characteristics such as desert or need. Desert-catering luck egalitarians offer rules (...) of the third type. Their theories fail because considerations of market efficiency, freedom, and dignity undermine the claims of desert to inform standards of justice for society as a whole. Responsibility-catering luck egalitarians offer rules of the first type. Their theories fail because such rules don’t constrain the downside risks of market choices. To solve this problem, we need rules of the second type, which allow market forces, and hence luck, to influence distributive outcomes, but only within an acceptable egalitarian range. The ideal of equality in social relations helps us devise acceptable constraints at the top, bottom, and middle of the income range. (shrink)
This paper evaluates the economic assumptions of economic theory via an examination of the capitalist transformation of creditor–debtor relations in the 18th century. This transformation enabled masses of people to obtain credit without moral opprobrium or social subordination. Classical 18th century economics had the ethical concepts to appreciate these facts. Ironically, contemporary economic theory cannot. I trace this fault to its abstract representations of freedom, efficiency, and markets. The virtues of capitalism lie in the concrete social relations and social meanings (...) through which capital and commodities are exchanged. Contrary to laissez faire capitalism, the conditions for sustaining these concrete capitalist formations require limits on freedom of contract and the scope of private property rights. (shrink)
McLachlan and Swales dispute my arguments against commercial surrogatemotherhood. In reply, I argue that commercial surrogate contractsobjectionably commodify children because they regardparental rights over children not as trusts, to be allocated in the bestinterests of the child, but as like property rights, to be allocatedat the will o the parents. They also express disrespect for mothers, bycompromising their inalienable right to act in the best interest of theirchildren, when this interest calls for mothers to assert a custody rightin their children.
The concept of preference dominates economic theory today. It performs a triple duty for economists, grounding their theories of individual behavior, welfare, and rationality. Microeconomic theory assumes that individuals act so as to maximize their utility – that is, to maximize the degree to which their preferences are satisfied. Welfare economics defines individual welfare in terms of preference satisfaction or utility, and social welfare as a function of individual preferences. Finally, economists assume that the rational act is the act that (...) maximally satisfies an individual's preferences. The habit of framing problems in terms of the concept of preference is now so entrenched that economists rarely entertain alternatives. (shrink)
John Dewey (1859-1952) lived from the Civil War to the Cold War, a period of extraordinary social, economic, demographic, political and technological change. During his lifetime the United States changed from a rural to an urban society, from an agricultural to an industrial economy, from a regional to a world power. It emancipated its slaves, but subjected them to white supremacy. It absorbed millions of immigrants from Europe and Asia, but faced wrenching conflicts between capital and labor as they were (...) integrated into the urban industrial economy. It granted women the vote, but resisted their full integration into educational and economic institutions. As the face-to-face communal life of small villages and towns waned, it confronted the need to create new forms of community life capable of sustaining democracy on urban and national scales. Dewey believed that neither traditional moral norms nor traditional philosophical ethics were up to the task of coping with the problems raised by these dramatic transformations. Traditional morality was adapted to conditions that no longer existed. Hidebound and unreflective, it was incapable of changing so as to effectively address the problems raised by new circumstances. Traditional philosophical ethics sought to discover and justify fixed moral goals and principles by dogmatic methods. Its preoccupation with reducing the diverse sources of moral insight to a single fixed principle subordinated practical service to ordinary people to the futile search for certainty, stability, and simplicity. In practice, both traditional morality and philosophical ethics served the interests of elites at the expense of most people. To address the problems raised by social change, moral practice needed to be thoroughly reconstructed, so that it contained within itself the disposition to respond intelligently to new circumstances. Dewey saw his reconstruction of philosophical ethics as a means to effect this practical reconstruction. (shrink)
Many problems of inequality in developing countries resist treatment by formal egalitarian policies. To deal with these problems, we must shift from a distributive to a relational conception of equality, founded on opposition to social hierarchy. Yet the production of many goods requires the coordination of wills by means of commands. In these cases, egalitarians must seek to tame rather than abolish hierarchy. I argue that bureaucracy offers important constraints on command hierarchies that help promote the equality of workers in (...) bureaucratic organizations. Bureaucracy thus constitutes a vital if limited egalitarian tool applicable to developing and developed countries alike. (shrink)
What is the proper role of politics in higher education? Many policies and reforms in the academy, from affirmative action and a multicultural curriculum to racial and sexual harassment codes and movements to change pedagogical styles, seek justice for oppressed groups in society. They understand justice to require a comprehensive equality of membership: individuals belonging to different groups should have equal access to educational opportunities; their interests and cultures should be taken equally seriously as worthy subjects of study, their persons (...) treated with equal respect and concern in communicative interaction. Conservative critics of these egalitarian movements represent them as dangerous political meddling into the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. They cast the pursuit of equality as a threat to freedom of speech and academic standards. In response, some radical advocates of such programs agree that the quest for equality clashes with free speech, but view this as an argument for sacrificing freedom of speech. (shrink)
the arguments in their favour are weak. Arguments based on reciprocity fail to explain why only means-tested public benefits should be subject to work requirements, and why unpaid dependant care work should not count as satisfying citizens’ obligations to reciprocate. Argu- ments based on promoting the work ethic misattribute recipients’ nonwork to deviant values, when their core problem is finding steady employment consistent with supporting a family and meeting dependant care responsibilities. Rigid work requirements impose unreasonable costs on some of (...) the poor. A welfare system based on a rebuttable presumption that recipients will work for pay, conjoined with more generous work supports, would promote justice better than either unconditional welfare or strict requirements . (shrink)
Sunstein represents moral heuristics as rigid rules that lead us to jump to moral conclusions, and contrasts them with reflective moral deliberation, which he represents as independent of heuristics and capable of supplanting them. Following John Dewey's psychology of moral judgment, I argue that successful moral deliberation does not supplant moral heuristics but uses them flexibly as inputs to deliberation. Many of the flaws in moral judgment that Sunstein attributes to heuristics reflect instead the limitations of the deliberative context in (...) which people are asked to render judgments. (shrink)
In Democratic Authority, David Estlund (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)
Amartya Sen’s ethical theorizing helps feminists resolve the tensions between the claims of women’s particular perspectives and moral objectivity. His concept of ‘‘positional objectivity’’ highlights the epistemological significance of value judgments made from particular social positions, while holding that certain values may become widely shared. He shows how acknowledging positionality is consistent with affirming the universal value of democracy. This article builds on Sen’s work by proposing an analysis of democracy as a set of institutions that aims to intelligently utilize (...) positional information for shared ends. This epistemological analysis of democracy offers a way to understand the rationale for reserving political offices for women. From a political point of view, gendered positions are better thought of as an epistemological resource than as a ground of identity politics – that is, of parochial identification and solidarity. (shrink)
The premise of this symposium is that the principle and ideal developed in Brown v. Board of Education2 and its successor cases lie at the heart of the rationale for affirmative action in higher education. The principle of the school desegregation cases is that racial segregation is an injustice that demands remediation. The ideal of the school desegregation cases is that racial integration is a positive good, without which “the dream of one Nation, indivisible”3 cannot be realized. Both the principle (...) and the ideal make racial integration a compelling interest. The Supreme Court recognized these claims in Grutter v. Bollinger. However, it failed to take full advantage of them. It thereby failed to answer crucial questions that must be answered by policies subject to strict scrutiny. In this essay, I shall display the links tying Grutter to Brown, discuss the vulnerabilities of Grut- ter in the absence of an explicit grounding in Brown, and demonstrate how the affirmative action policy upheld in Grutter, when explicitly grounded in Brown, survives strict scrutiny. To understand this argument, it is helpful first to explain the integrationist perspective that underlies it. (shrink)