The Case for Democratic Patients: Epistemic Democracy Goes Green
In mainstream democratic theory, non-agents are only considered indirectly: their interests matter if and only if a group of agents cares about them. In this paper, I argue that democratic patients, non-agents whose interests are affected by democratic decisions, have a place of their own in democratic theory. That is, they are entitled to the fair consideration of their interests in the democratic decision-making process. I defend the case for democratic patients by building upon the idea of epistemic democracy as proposed by David Estlund. If democratic procedures ought to be epistemically designed towards achieving right decisions, as Estlund argues, they should consider all relevant evidence fairly, like a jury does. Since democratic patients’ interests are affected by democratic decisions, I argue that they do count as relevant evidence via the All-Affected Principle, which lies at the core of democracy. Then I present some candidates for being democratic patients, which include young children, severely cognitively disabled humans, non-existent future humans, sentient animals and even non-sentient life forms. Whether they turn out to be democratic patients depends on what theories one accepts about agency, interests, and the impact of the outcomes of democracy on interests. I illustrate that point by discussing future humans as possible candidates. Finally, I briefly explore the challenge of designing real-world institutions derived from my argument, outlining what objectives they should aim for and some of the problems they might face.
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