Democracy and Value: Towards a Pluralistic Value Epistemology

Javier Santolaya Fabiani, Fordham University


There is a need for a pluralistic value epistemology in order to achieve a multicultural democratic understanding that allows us to overcome cultural conflicts. Value epistemology must recognize the way in which values and facts mutually influence each other; and needs to (1) identify the ways in which we constitute our values, (2) locate the kind of meta-philosophical values that will allow us to avoid absolutist thinking and develop tolerance and reciprocity, and (3) point to ways to cultivate them on an individual and a social level. This project will only be possible if we enlarge the scope of value pluralism to encompass different cultures. Multicultural exchange should be guided by polycentric perspectivism, which considers different cultural worldviews equally valid and complementary. Alain Locke adds a critical insight to polycentric perspectivism: values should be tested insofar as they are democratically tolerable, treating everybody as equally valuable while respecting value differences with and between cultures, the need of every person for freedom in living, the importance of everyone's opportunities to contribute to the formation of their society's values, and the responsibility of every person to contribute to the wellbeing of others within and outside their own society. Locke develops this view with his principles for cultural relativism: (1) cultural equivalence, (2) cultural reciprocity, and (3) limited cultural convertibility. Guided by ideal democratic values, these three principles will allow for the emergence of multicultural meta-philosophical values. This multicultural conversation should be encouraged through education, the arts, and policy and public engagement; and it must involve the fight against injustice and intolerance and the building of a common democratic community.

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Recommended Citation

Santolaya Fabiani, Javier, "Democracy and Value: Towards a Pluralistic Value Epistemology" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30488838.