Select Page

The Epistemic Responsibilities of Democratic Citizens


Michele Giavazzi (University of Genoa);

Carline Klijnman (University of Genoa);

Contemporary democratic societies face a variety of political challenges. Some of these challenges display a distinctive epistemic dimension. Developments in communication technologies, for instance, have  changed the way information is produced, shared, and consumed by democratic citizens. On the one hand, much politically relevant information has become more easily and instantly accessible. On the other hand, democratic citizens have to gather this information under suboptimal epistemic circumstances, characterized by widespread misinformation, political polarization and sometimes a perceived lack of epistemic authority. In light of the challenging nature of these epistemic circumstances, inquiring about the epistemic responsibilities of democratic citizens has become increasingly relevant. Depending on the account from which these responsibilities are endorsed, there might be significant implications relating to democratic legitimacy. For instance, epistemic critics of democracy question the legitimacy of democracy precisely because they deem democratic citizens to be uninformed, unmotivated or epistemically irresponsible. Epistemic democrats, on the contrary, express optimism about the collective epistemic performance of democratic citizens. They tend to put less emphasis on individual competence and argue in favor of the epistemic merits of democracy. Finally, others urge caution against placing too much significance on
the epistemic responsibilities of citizens in the first place. From their standpoint, considerations of epistemic responsibility are secondary to other procedural commitments, such as political equality or inclusiveness. Depending on one’s position in this debate, one might argue for a more or less demanding account of epistemic responsibilities – if any. This workshop aims to shed light on possible accounts of epistemic responsibilities of democratic citizens. We will welcome submissions related to the following questions (broadly construed):

  • What kind of epistemic responsibilities should be attributed todemocratic citizens, if any?
  • Should we conceive of epistemically responsible behaviour in veristic or procedural terms?
  • How do these epistemic responsibilities relate to other obligations of democratic citizenship?
  • What are the conditions under which these epistemic responsibilities can be fostered?
  • What are the normative grounds of the epistemic responsibilities of democratic citizens?
  • Is democratic legitimacy impacted by whether or not democratic citizens act in an epistemically responsible fashion?
  • What kind of role, if any, does epistemic responsibility play in practices such as public deliberation and voting?

The workshop will take place across three half-days, on 7 th – 9 th September 2021.

Confirmed speakers:
Dr. Cameron Boult (Brandon University)
Dr. Michael Hannon (University of Nottingham)

Prospective speakers should submit a short abstract (max. 250 words) and an extended abstract (max. 1000 words). Submissions should be made suitable for 30 minutes presentations.
Please send your submissions, with files prepared for blind review, to by May 7 th . We aim to notify prospective speakers of our decision by the 31 st of May.