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The relationship between reason and democracy - Essay Example

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Your Name Prof’s Name Date The Relationship Between Reason and Democracy: Does One Definitely Rely on the Other? Democracy is becoming a more and more used form of government throughout the world. Though it was once a relatively limited kind of government, only being used by Greece and Rome, and then not used at all for many centuries, it is growing in importance once again as more and more of the world’s greatest countries become and remain Democratic…
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The relationship between reason and democracy
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Download file to see previous pages In this time period, the Enlightenment, people began to believe that rationality was the most important thing, indeed, Immanuel Kant said at the beginning of his work “What is the Enlightenment?” that having “courage to use your own reason” was the “motto of the Enlightenment” (Kant 1). In this kind of classical liberal thinking about democracy, there is no way to separate the idea of democracy from the idea of idea of reason – democracy could only be successful as a form of government because the people who are choosing the leaders are acting in a rational way – either for their own self interest or because of morality or for some other, rational reason. Yet there might be other reasons why democracy is successful that these thinkers do not cover. So essentially, whether or not democracy relies on reason depends on whether or not one believes in the classical idea of the reasons for democracy. Under classical conceptions of democracy, where it exists as a kind of contract between the leaders and the people they lead, democracy cannot exist without reason; I would argue, however, that classical ideas do not actually describe why democracy is successful, and that alternative explanations could allow for democracy to exist and succeed without reason or rationality being involved in any way shape or form. Classical understandings of democracy come from the Enlightenment, and this classical understanding must be understood in its hirtorical context. This was a time when many rulers ruled by divine right – the monarchy was still the most powerful thing in Europe, and these monarchs used considerable power to shape and even abuse the people who they were in control of, for their own gain. As Locke notes the ability to “compel by the sword” was the power of the civil magistrate alone, which essentially means that the ruler is the only person who is able to force his people to do something based on force and violence (Locke 2). Through this understanding, it was important to provide a basis for a new system of government that made a lot of sense in theory as well as working in practice, and the theory behind democracy relied on the idea that every person was reasonable. When trying to convince people that they should not be led by their current leaders (the kind of leaders who had been in control of the world for essentially the entire history of the world), one had to convince everyone that there was a better system, not just an alternate system. And the “betterness” of democracy relies on the idea that each person is rational and can act rationally when choosing a leader or deciding what is best for them – and will do so. So the basic idea of democracy, from a classical perspective, relies on reason in a very strong way, and so cannot be separated from reason – the classical defenses of democracy would fall apart if people were not reasonable. But this does not mean that the classical justification for democracy was the reason that democracy is a good system of government. I would argue that one of the main reasons democracy is a good system of government is that it does not give any one group or person the ability to form a tyranny, to get into complete control and begin making everything better for them ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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