Truth, Knowledge, and Democratic Authority in the Public Health Debate

  • Fiorella Battaglia Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Germany)
Keywords: Epistemology, Democracy, Public Health Debate, M-Health


Quality of democratic arrangements does matter. This kind of conceptual breakthrough has been made through painfully engagement with the nonphilosophical area of inquiry arisen by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has dramatically emphasized that health is a highly political domain. No surprise then that it made possible to challenge common thought about democratic procedures in political theory that considers procedure-independent standards suspicious. Therefore it is fair to state that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the quality of democratic outcomes back on center stage in the debate in political theory, which has been dominated by fair proceduralism’s claim not to refer to any procedure-independent standards of good political decisions. Procedural values have traditionally been seen as a defining element of fair deliberation and essential for democracy. They have been extolled in social choice theory that claims that democracy does not exhibit any particular disposition to lead to good or just political arrangements. They are the focus of attention in Jürgen Habermas’ procedural rationality, though philosophers are now more skeptical about the divorce between procedures and substantive standards. Overall, issues surrounding the topic of ensuring citizens’ health make the topic politically central and philosophically interesting for epistemic theories and impartial proceduralism theories of democracy alike. The aim of this paper is to justify the legitimacy and authority of public health policies on the basis of arguments that do not simply are a matter of their being democratic. In the first part, I want to display and criticize the idea that proceduralism’s not getting one’s hands dirty with the substance of decisions and remaining neutrally adherent only to procedures is untenable in the present case. Having criticized democratic theories that want to restrict themselves to purely procedural values, in the second part I will focus on the idea of knowledge and make explicit its characters of being practical and shared. Eventually, it will help to have one example. M-Health will show that many valuable insights would be incompatible with the restrictions of the proceduralism. Philosophical consideration of health will combine epistemic issues with political ones triggered by technology and sharpened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting Agency

This paper is supported by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N. 730994, project TERRINet - The European Robotics Research Infrastructure Network.

How to Cite
Battaglia, F. (2021). Truth, Knowledge, and Democratic Authority in the Public Health Debate. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 14(40), 1-22. Retrieved from