Graduation Year

2017

Date of Submission

4-2017

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Philosophy and Public Affairs

Reader 1

Alex Rajczi

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© 2017 Andrea Jewett

Abstract

I examine the current state of democracy in the United States and how it has evolved from its original, direct form. Present-day problems with democracy emerge in part because of a failure to exercise our autonomy, which is the very basis of our self-governance. To consistently improve the ways in which we organize ourselves in society, I suggest a civil duty to become informed about political issues and engage with others from different backgrounds. Because we exercise reason in order to determine governance, thoughtful deliberation provides opportunities to include more diverse opinions and ideas in political decision-making. I outline an ideal deliberative democracy that would better serve the interests of the constituents given the uniqueness of today’s challenges. To explore the value of deliberation, I examine Immanuel Kant’s text “What is Enlightenment?” and Michel Foucault’s text in response to Kant. I argue that if deliberation is carried out with intention, citizens in a democracy can help strengthen the system by fulfilling duties of civility. Foucault’s historicocritical examination of ourselves reinstates our autonomy and allows an emergence from a state of immaturity. Recognition of our condition in the present day is, I will argue, an achievement of progress towards a dynamic conception of personal and collective enlightenment.

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