Many thinkers lament the lack of public knowledge and understanding of science, expressing doubts about the wisdom of allowing public opinion to direct policy- or decision-making. Philip Kitcher argues that "free discussion" is just as likely to produce less, rather than more, informed public views. The paper takes Kitcher to task for his analysis of public knowledge and his claims that "irremediable" ignorance poses a great difficulty for properly addressing pressing social and environmental challenges. Kitcher's assessment is compared to Dewey's discussion of democratic public engagement and it is shown that their views differ considerably. It is argued that public knowledge must be understood in connection with epistemic trust toward policy-making and social institutions. It is argued that Dewey's criticism of "intellectualistic" criteria of knowledge can be usefully applied to Kitcher's discussion of public knowledge, and that a Deweyan account of public knowledge brings a more optimistic and realistic perspective on public participation in determining policies.


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pp. 167-188
Launched on MUSE
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