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The Epistemic Life of GroupsEssays in the Epistemology of Collectives$
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Michael S. Brady and Miranda Fricker

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198759645

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198759645.001.0001

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The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy

The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy

Chapter:
(p.133) 7 The Epistemic Circumstances of Democracy
Source:
The Epistemic Life of Groups
Author(s):

Fabienne Peter

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198759645.003.0008

Does political decision-making require experts or can a democracy be trusted to make correct decisions? This question has a long-standing tradition in political philosophy, going back at least to Plato’s Republic. Critics of democracy tend to argue that democracy cannot be trusted in this way, while advocates tend to argue that it can. Both camps agree that it is the epistemic quality of the outcomes of political decision-making processes that underpins the legitimacy of political institutions. In recent political philosophy, epistemic democrats have embraced this instrumentalist way of thinking about democracy. This chapter argues that the attempt to defend democracy on epistemic instrumentalist grounds is self-undermining. It also develops an alternative—procedural—epistemic defence of democracy. The chapter shows that there is a prima facie epistemic case for democracy when there is no procedure-independent epistemic authority on the issue to be decided.

Keywords:   democracy, political, decision-making, instrumentalist, procedure, authority

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