Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Ingolf U. Dalferth

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Brian L. Keeley

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Paul Hurley

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2020 Robert W Mittendorf


In this dissertation, I argue for a pluralist Peircean epistemic approach to democratic justification to address the challenge of reasonable pluralism. Whereas public reason approaches to democratic justification require citizens privatize their worldviews, an epistemic approach to democracy allows citizens the freedom to express their personal reasons while harnessing the epistemic power of democracy to identify and solve social problems. I find that of the various epistemic approaches available, Cheryl Misak and Robert Talisse’s Peircean Epistemic Defense of Democracy (PED) is the most promising because it is widely inclusive of personal reasons, uses pluralism to further the epistemic goals of democracy, and offers a robust defense of democratic procedures, norms, and institutions. The PED argues that beliefs aim at truth, and in holding a belief properly, one must engage in a process of reason exchange to support the truth of that belief. Moreover, only in a democracy can one properly engage in this process of reason exchange due to the epistemic requirements of an open society. The Peircean requirements for proper believing have been criticized for allegedly being oppressive and exclusive in a similar manner to public reason. What I call the ‘faith objection’ claims that the epistemic norms of religious belief and faith are different and even contradictory to the epistemic norms imposed by the PED. I disagree with this objection and argue that the PED is inclusive of religious reasons because religious belief and faith are sufficiently responsive to reasons and evidence. Though this raises a new challenge: if the PED is radically inclusive, to what extent will reasons that are inaccessible, incommensurable, weak, or false corrupt the epistemic environment of democracy? For the PED to avoid the faith objection, it will need to include reasons that are out of the ordinary, for example, conspiracy theories. But if conspiracy theories or other non-traditional modes of reasoning are rampant in democratic deliberation, then there may be a decline in the epistemic functioning of democracy, thus endangering the epistemic justification the PED is built upon. I argue that while the challenge of including non-traditional reasoning is difficult, it also offers the opportunity for new paths towards truth. These non-traditional forms of reasoning may be novel approaches to truth that only some democratic citizens have access. By including conspiracy theories, religion, or other inaccessible and incommensurable reasoning in public deliberation, the PED can be inclusive of all democratic citizens, while offering a robust justification of democracy.