Date: 22 Jan 2013

How Can One be Both a Philosophical Ethicist and a Democrat?

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How can one be both a philosophical ethicist and a democrat? In this article I conclude that it can be difficult to reconcile the two roles. One involves understanding, and reconciling, the conflicting views of citizens, and the other requires the pursuit of truth through reason. Nevertheless, an important function of philosophy and ethics is to inform and improve policy. If done effectively, we could expect better, and more just, laws and policies, thereby benefiting many lives. So applying philosophical thinking to policy is an important job. However, it comes with substantial difficulties, not least in reconciling, or choosing between, competing philosophical theories. Despite the importance of the task, and the apparent obstacles, there is relatively little literature on how to apply ethics to real-world policy-making. Democracies need ethicists who can engage in democratic debate and bridge the gap between philosophy and public policy. I offer some tactics here.