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ERIC Number: EJ1000304
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0160-7561
The Lippmann-Dewey "Debate" Revisited: The Problem of Knowledge and the Role of Experts in Modern Democratic Theory
DeCesare, Tony
Philosophical Studies in Education, v43 p106-116 2012
With only some fear of oversimplification, the fundamental differences between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey that are of concern here can be introduced by giving attention to Lippmann's deceptively simple formulation of a central problem in democratic theory: "The environment is complex. Man's political capacity is simple. Can a bridge be built between them?" Or, borrowing Dewey's formulation of the same problem, one might ask "how the gap between the limited capacities of the citizen and the complexity of his environment [is] to be bridged." That such a gap existed was a point of agreement between Dewey and Lippmann. Both understood the difficulties that would result from a relatively uninformed and incompetent citizenry governing popularly in the complex modern age of political affairs. Where the two men had a fundamental disagreement was not so much in their diagnoses or critiques of the problems in modern democracy as in the constructive and prescriptive aspects of their respective democratic theories. This essay focuses on the "problem of knowledge" as understood by Lippmann and Dewey and on the different roles that each subsequently gives to the "expert" in the constructive aspects of their respective democratic theories. The author argues that the heart of Lippmann's and Dewey's disagreement over the role of the expert vis-a-vis the public in a democracy are fundamental differences of thought concerning (1) the kind and degree of knowledge and competence required of citizens in a popularly governed polity and, related, (2) the potential of the average citizen to acquire and exercise such knowledge and competence in political affairs and practical life in general. (Contains 59 footnotes.)
Ohio Valley Philosophy of Education Society. Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A