Virtue Epistemology and the ‘Epistemic Fitness’ of Democracy

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Abstract

In this article I explore three distinct advantages of linking virtue epistemology to an epistemic defence of democracy. First, because intellectual agents and communities are the primary focus of epistemic evaluation, virtue epistemology offers political theorists the opportunity to develop an epistemic defence of democracy that takes ‘realism’ seriously (e.g. the cognitive limitations and biases of humans). Second, because virtue epistemology conceives of epistemology as a normative discipline, it builds normative criteria into the exercise of assessing the ‘epistemic fitness’ of a political arrangement (e.g. democracy vs. epistocracy). Third, by assessing the epistemic powers of democracy from a virtue-epistemological perspective, a more robust (Deweyan) conception of democracy needs to be employed and assessed than the minimalist conception employed by the Condorcet Jury Theorem.

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