"Empirical and Normative Truth in Democracy"
In public discourse, but also in political theory, the opinion prevails, that democracy is incompatible with aspirations of truth. Some assume, in the Hobbesian tradition, that civic peace requires that truth assertions be restricted to science and religion (normative positivism), whereas the political sphere is constituted by interests, bargaining and collective decisions based on interests, bargaining and rules of aggregation, be they implicit or explicit. In this perspective Collective Choice as preference aggregation is paradigmatic for the understanding of democracy. Postmodernist and neo-pragmatist thought dismisses truth, because it threatens solidarity and belonging. Libertarian political thought relies on market mechanisms reducing citizens to consumers and producers of material and immaterial goods like security and welfare. Accounts of deliberative democracy focus on reasoning in the public sphere but dismiss a realistic understanding of truth, because it is thought to threaten collective and individual self-determination.
In my talk I will argue that a realistic understanding of empirical and normative truth is compatible, even necessary, for an adequate understanding of democracy, that truth assertions do not threaten civic peace, that postmodernist relativity undermines democratic practice, that libertarian market-orientation is incompatible with the status of citizens in democracy and that even deliberative, but anti-realist, accounts of democracy do not allow for an adequate understanding of democracy. My argument is based on a Davidsonian, or pragmatist, understanding of truth, therefore one might say: it critizises normative positivism, postmodernism, libertarianism, and critical theory using pragmatist insights.
Julian Nida-Rümelin presently holds a chair for philosophy and political theory at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, is a member of the European Academy of Sciences, was president of the German Philosophical Association (DGphil) and state-minister for culture and media in the first government of Gerhard Schröder. The topics of his books include Democracy as Cooperation (1999); Democracy and Truth (2006), translated in Chinese and Italian, Philosophy and the form of Life (2009), Realism (2018) and A Theory of Practical Reason (2020, forthcoming, de Gruyter and PUP).
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