Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 50, 2008

Social and Political Philosophy

Mark Evans
Pages 147-169

A Profane Deformity of Democratic Discourse

In his provocative definition of bullshit as “indifference to the truth”, Harry Frankfurt contentiously states that democracy is particularly prone to this deformity of discourse because of “the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs.” I provide an exposition of this claim that Frankfurt does not himself give and I contend that he has identified an important problem with democratic deliberation. This is an argument about, not against, democracy and it is one which gives pause over the sanguine assumptions of much radical, “deliberative” democratic theory that this phenomenon will not be significantly present in an enhanced democracy. A suggestion about the responsibilities of political philosophers in helping a democratic citizenry to tackle the problem is floated for future elaboration.