Epistemic Norms and Democracy: a Response to Talisse


Department of Theoretical Philosophy

P.O. Box 24

FIN-00014 University of Helsinki




John Rawls argued that democracy must be justifiable to all citizens; otherwise, a democratic society is oppressive to some. In A Pragmatist Philosophy of Democracy (2007), Robert B. Talisse attempts to meet the Rawlsian challenge by drawing from Charles S. Peirce's pragmatism. This article first briefly canvasses the argument of Talisse's book and then criticizes its key premise concerning (normative) reasons for belief by offering a competing reading of Peirce's “The Fixation of Belief” (1877). It then proceeds to argue that Talisse's argument faces a dilemma: his proposal of epistemic perfectionism either is substantive and can be reasonably disagreed about or is minimal but insufficient to ground a democratic society. Consequently, it suggests that the Rawlsian challenge can only be solved by abandoning Rawls's own notion of reasonableness, and that an interesting alternative notion of reasons can be derived from Peirce's “Fixation.”