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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 29, 2013

Civic Virtues, Divided Societies, and Democratic Dilemmas

Jamie T. Kelly, Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij
Pages 49-58

Epistemic Perfectionism and Liberal Democracy

Robert Talisse’s recent attempt to justify liberal democracy in epistemic terms is in many ways a breath of fresh air. However, in the present paper we argue that his defense faces two inter-related problems. The first problem pertains to his defense of liberalism, and owes to the fact that a commitment to the folk-epistemological norms in terms of which he makes his case does not commit one to partaking in liberal institutions. Consequently, our (alleged) commitment to the relevant epistemic norms does not justify liberal democracy. The second problem pertains to his defense of democracy. The problem is that, if Talisse provides what we take to be the most plausible response to the first problem, framed in terms of his acceptance of a form of epistemic perfectionism, he is able to maintain his commitment to liberal institutions, but at the price of leaving democracy behind in favor of what we will refer to as a liberal epistocracy.

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