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Title: Counting and talking : a Benthamite view of public reasoning
Author: Shafe, J. R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8497 8195
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis considers two separate areas of debate in Bentham scholarship and political theory to discern what the latter might learn from the former. The concept of "public reason" has been developed largely by contemporary deliberative democrats (Habermas, 1997). These thinkers commonly believe that talking between voters holds a special value because it allows citizens to engage with one another in a particular way. This mode of participation or "deliberation" is often designed to provoke individuals to move beyond their "mere" self-interest, and instead consider what is best for the community before they vote. Rawls (1997), for example, believes that this type of talking between citizens should be subject to certain constraints: citizens should appeal only to shared or "public" reasons when justifying arguments on fundamentally important matters. This basic idea has many different formulations, with different implications for how public reasoning within democracy is viewed. In contrast, aggregative democratic theorists are generally thought to contribute less to this debate. They insist that individuals' basic preferences are fixed, and do not transform during discussion. I aim to establish how existing-"conventional" and "participatory"-interpretations of Bentham fit into this debate, and to argue that there is an alternative. This alternative "hybrid" view reflects Bentham's work on publicity and official aptitude. It casts public reasoning as a way of securing the public against the misconduct of officials. This interpretation clarifies our understanding of Bentham in relation to contemporary writing on public reason. It strengthens the view that aggregative and deliberative democracy should be seen as compatible, rather than opposing approaches. Further, it does not expect or require consensus and is based on participants' self-interest. As a result, it is less susceptible than contemporary Rawlsian and Habermasian views to critiques based on false consensus and exclusion.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available