Projet de recherche : Peircean Pragmatism - Annabelle Lever


Peircean Pragmatism


Democracy as Political Inquiry Pragmatist Contributions to Democratic Justification

A project funded by SNF and led by Professor Annabelle Lever

Expected beginning: Spring 2016. Duration: 36 months.



What if anything does recent interest in Peircean Pragmatism add to our understanding of the epistemic properties of democracy? This question is of practical, as well as philosophic, interest, because citizens care about the substantive properties of collective decisions – their truth, their reasonableness, their morality, their efficacy – and not just the procedural correctness and legitimacy of the ways in which they were made. There has long been an interest in Deweyan pragmatism and its implications for democracy – particularly in the area of democratic education and in philosophical debates about the best way to justify democracy or to think about political justification. However, the work of Robert Talisse and Cheryl Misak has drawn attention to the significance of Peircean epistemology for democratic political philosophy and, in particular, to the possibility that democratic commitments to freedom of expression, association and political choice might give us epistemic reasons to support democracy even when we are unsure about the morality of the policies or decisions which it generates. In short, Peircean pragmatism, at least as developed by Talisse and Misak, claims to illuminate the epistemic dimensions of democratic government in ways that shore up its legitimacy, and improve political practice.2 This project seeks to determine whether or not Peircean pragmatism can provide the promised philosophical illumination and political guidance.

The project has three parts. The first part seeks to clarify the key elements of a Peircean conception of democracy, as formulated by Talisse and Misak, and to draw out the links between truth and democracy they claim are implicit in Peirce’s epistemology. The second part of the proposal presents and evaluates existing debates on the epistemic dimensions of democracy, focusing on both the internal debate amongst ‘deliberative democrats’ about the place of reason and truth in politics, and on recent critiques of deliberative conceptions of democracy from ‘realist’ political theorists and those who are openly sceptical about the wisdom and virtue of citizens. The third part of the project seeks to determine whether PD offers anything of philosophical or practical interest to deliberative democrats confronting their realist and sceptical critics who claim that they overestimate the scope for moral agreement amongst citizens, and exaggerate the truth-tracking potential of democratic procedures. This project therefore provides a critical overview and assessment of normative democratic theory, as it has developed in recent years, in ways that will be of interest to moral philosophers, epistemologists and historians, as well as political scientists.


2 novembre 2015