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Moral Disagreement in a Democracy

  • Amy Gutmann (a1) and Dennis Thompson (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2009

Moral disagreement about public policies—issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and health care—is a prominent feature of contemporary American democracy. Yet it is not a central concern of the leading theories of democracy. The two dominant democratic approaches in our time—procedural democracy and constitutional democracy—fail to offer adequate responses to the problem of moral disagreement. Both suggest some elements that are necessary in any adequate response, but neither one alone nor both together are sufficient. We argue here that an adequate conception of democracy must make moral deliberation an essential part of the political process. What we call “deliberative democracy” adds an important dimension to the theory and practice of politics that the leading conceptions of democracy neglect.

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T. M. Scanlon , “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” in Utilitarianism and Beyond, ed. Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 103–28.

Bernard Williams , “Ethical Consistency,” in Problems of the Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 166–86

Douglas Rae , “Decision Rules and Individual Values in Constitutional Choice,” American Political Science Review, vol. 63 (1969), pp. 4056

Miller, “Social Choice and Deliberative Democracy,” Political Studies, vol. 40 (1992), pp. 6063.

Bernard Manin , “On Legitimacy and Political Deliberation,” Political Theory, vol. 15 (081987), pp. 338–68

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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