Document Type



Presented at the Pragmatism, Law and Governmentality conference held at Cornell Law School on March 28, 2003.


Today science is almost universally regarded as an ally of democracy. Religion - once viewed by Tocqueville as the great support of democratic mores, in contrast to the materialism of then-contemporary atheists who threatened to undermine democratic commitments - is now viewed by many as antithetical to the openness and provisionality that marks both science and democracy. As framed by the neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty, religion is a "conversation-stopper," the very definition of anti-democratic, anti-scientific anti-pragmatism.

Whereas a pragmatic form of faith, notably "democratic faith," secures belief in an ever improving future, the "politics of skepticism" is reinforced by the initial embrace of faith in redemption beyond the wholly human or political that is in turn accompanied by insistence upon humility and circumspection. Democracy may, in the end, require faith in some form, but it remains contestable whether the "democratic faith" of pragmatism is finally the form of faith that best serves the cause and prospects of democracy.

Date of Authorship for this Version

March 2003