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Toward an existential critical theory of deliberative democracy

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Description: This dissertation began with two leading intuitions, which ended up being developed into two corresponding parts of the text. The first intuition was that despite the apparent differences between critical theory and existential philosophy, there could be a fruitful dialogue between the work of Jürgen Habermas and the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre. The second intuition is that this confrontation can lead to a desirable and workable theory of democracy based on participation through public discourse and dialogue (deliberative democracy). Part one of the dissertation begins by examining Habermas's critical theory of everyday language use and the way it is developed into a theory of democracy (chapter 1). This critical theory is then criticized for resting on an overly formal theory of language, which misses some of the deepest characteristics of the experience of intersubjective life (chapter 2). To overcome this problem, a parallel form of critical theory is developed out of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology (chapter 3). This critical theory, which is rooted in the notion that dialogue is a the heart of everyday life, is more directly applicable to our moral experiences than is Habermas's more formal conception. Part one ends with an attempt at making the Merleau-Pontian critical theory more directly relevant to political issues by confronting it with the critical political writings of Sartre (chapter 4). While part one develops a critical theory which stresses the notion of dialogue, part two develops this critical theory in a more concrete form by confronting it with contemporary work on the issue of deliberative democracy. It begins with a definition of deliberative democracy, and a discussion of some of the most common arguments given for and against such a view (chapter 5). Then, the issue of pluralism is discussed from an existential perspective (chapter 6). Finally, the dissertation ends by using the existential critical theory to examine the issue of how public speech can be effectively linked to administrative spheres. The upshot of the last two chapters is that an open and reciprocal conception of dialogue, instituted in a multiplicity of discursive spheres (from informal, grass-roots spheres to formalized governmental spheres) is defended.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work