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Democratic Authority: A Philosophical Framework

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Estlund David

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Collège de France
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Democratic Authority: A Philosophical Framework

La sagesse collective : principes et mécanismes

Colloque des 22-23 mai 2008, organisé par l'Institut du Monde Contemporain du Collège de France, sous la direction du Professeur Jon Elster.

Intervention de David Estlund.
“In this talk, I give an overview of the argument of my new book of the same title.
Democracy is not naturally plausible. Why turn such important matters over to masses of people who have no special expertise? Theories of the value of democracy often try to answer this question by appeal to the intrinsic value of the procedure itself, without relying on any tendency toward good decisions. In this book I argue that those approaches fail, and I develop a new approach, "epistemic proceduralism."

The authority and legitimacy of political decisions is partly owed to the fact that they were produced by procedures that could be generally accepted as having some tendency to make good decisions. Just as with verdicts in jury trials, the authority and legitimacy of a decision in a given case does not depend on the decision being good or correct in that case, but the epistemic value of the procedure is nevertheless crucial. If epistemic value were what mattered, you might wonder why those who know best shouldn't simply rule. Epistocracy, or rule of the knowers, is avoided on my theory, however. I argue that while some few probably do know best, this cannot be used in political justification unless their special expertise is acceptable to all reasonable (or"qualified) points of view. If we seek the epistemically best arrangement, so far as can be established to the wide range of qualified points of view, it will be recognizably democratic, with laws and policies actually authorized by the people subject to them”.



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