Vernacular Discourse and the Epistemic Dimension of Public Opinion


Gerard A. Hauser; e-mail:


Habermas argues that the epistemic dimension of a democracy resides in public opinion. This paper argues that a deliberative model of public opinion needs to take into account exchanges among ordinary citizens that underwrite public opinion and are a major source of the political public sphere’s unruliness. Second, it argues that when we examine how ordinary citizens make arguments about public problems that intersect their lives, there is evidence that their norms of reasoning, standards of evidence, and modes of argumentation challenge the presuppositions and rationality of authority. Finally, it argues that although the power of media moguls is not to be discounted, the clock is ticking. Internet communication has opened new avenues for information and participation that can elude corporate power’s capacity to control the game.