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Assessing the Epistemic Quality of Democratic Decision-Making in Terms of Adequate Support for Conclusions

Journal article
Authors Henrik Friberg-Fernros
Johan Karlsson Schaffer
Published in Social Epistemology
Volume 31
Issue 3
Pages 251-265
ISSN 0269-1728
Publication year 2017
Published at School of Global Studies
Department of Political Science
Pages 251-265
Language en
Keywords Epistemic democracy, deliberative democracy, epistemological theory of argumentation, argument schemes, support adequacy, discourse quality
Subject categories Political Science, Philosophy


How can we assess the epistemic quality of democratic decision-making? Sceptics doubt such assessments are possible, as they must rely on controversial substantive standards of truth and rightness. Challenging that scepticism, this paper suggests a procedure-independent standard for assessing the epistemic quality of democratic decision-making by evaluating whether it is adequately supported by reasons. Adequate support for conclusion is a necessary (but insufficient on its own) aspect of epistemic quality for any epistemic justification of democracy, though particularly relevant to theories that emphasise public deliberation. Finding existing methods for measuring the quality of public discourse to fall short, we draw on an epistemological theory of argumentation to provide a more sophisticated approach to evaluating the epistemic quality of democratic decision-making, illustrate how the approach can be used, and demonstrate its relevance for the epistemic turn in democratic theory.

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