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Instructor: Alex Worsnip. This course meets W 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. in CW 213.

Topic: Political Epistemology

This is a course at the intersection of epistemology and political philosophy (more specifically, the political philosophy of democracy). It will be divided into two parts. In the first part of the course, we’ll investigate the epistemic responsibilities of citizens in a democracy. Questions will include: should we always defer to experts about complex policy questions, or are we justified in thinking and reasoning for ourselves? What are our obligations in deciding what media to consume and how? How should we respond to political disagreements? In the second part, we’ll examine some prominent work in democratic theory in light of the epistemic investigations of the first half of the course. We’ll look at epistemic arguments for democracy, deliberative conceptions of democracy, debates about political legitimacy under conditions of disagreement (and related notions such as public reason and political liberalism), and arguments for alternatives to (ordinary, electoral) democracy. Readings may include work by Elizabeth Anderson, David Enoch, David Estlund, Alex Guerrero, Fabienne Peter, Helene Landemore, Thi Nguyen, Regina Rini, and Han van Wietmarschen, among others.


Please note: As an intersubdisciplinary course, this course can potentially be counted either toward the “metaphysics and epistemology” or toward the “value theory” distribution requirement for PHIL grad students. However, to count it toward the former requirement, you must write a final paper that engages substantially with the specifically epistemological issues and literature from the course; and similarly, to count it toward the latter requirement, you must write a final paper that engages with the issues and literature in political philosophy from the course. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to be in touch with me (Alex).

Permission of the instructor is required to enroll in this course. PHIL grad students are exempt from this enrollment requirement.