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“The people want it” : Analysis and evaluation of the populist argument in the context of deliberation

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Abstract

This article reflects on the reasonableness of populist arguments supporting a prescriptive standpoint in the context of deliberation (which I call ‘deliberative’ populist arguments). A literature survey shows a divide between authors who claim that populist arguments are always fallacious and those who think that in some situations they can be reasonable, including the context of political deliberation. It is then argued that deliberative populist arguments are based on a linking premise that appeals to majority opinion as a principle of democracy. This linking premise differs from the one underlying the traditional interpretation of a fallacious populist argument (argumentum ad populum) and appears at first sight to make the argument reasonable. However, I conclude that a deliberative populist argument is also unreasonable, because it acts merely as a trump card, creating a false impression about democracy and avoiding engagement in real debate and substantive reasons.

Keywords: appeal to popularity; argumentum ad populum; bandwagon; deliberative democracy; majority; opinion polls; popular opinion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 17, 2020

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