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Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge

A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy

In this witty and provocative study of democracy and its critics, Charles Willard debunks liberalism, arguing that its exaggerated ideals of authenticity, unity, and community have deflected attention from the pervasive incompetence of "the rule of experts." He proposes a ground of communication that emphasizes common interests rather than narrow disputes.

The problem of "unity" and the public sphere has driven a wedge between libertarians and communitarians. To mediate this conflict, Willard advocates a shift from the discourse of liberalism to that of epistemics. As a means of organizing the ebb and flow of consensus, epistemics regards democracy as a family of knowledge problems—as ways of managing discourse across differences and protecting multiple views.

Building a bridge between warring peoples and warring paradigms, this book also reminds those who presume to instruct government that they are obliged to enlighten it, and that to do so requires an enlightened public discourse.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Yankee Way to Knowledge
Pt. I: The Public and Its Problems: One More Time
1: Authenticity and the Rhetoric of Trauma
2: Romancing the Gesellschaft: Community and the Fallacy of Common
3: Commensuration and Unificationism
4: Foucault’s Trap
5: Pluralism, the Public, and the Problem of Knowledge
6: Democracy in America: A Thought Experiment
Pt. II: Discourse across Differences
7: Epistemics
8: The Uses of Argument Fields
9: Fields as Organizations
10: A Theory of Presumption
11: Desperately Seeking Dewey
12: Epilogue: A Rhetoric for Modern Democracy

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