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The Press as a Consultative Forum: A Contribution to Normative Press Theory

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Abstract

The contemporary press has, in many countries, evolved into a discursive battlefield characterized by a war of words and images. Against this backdrop, some normative theorists of the press assert the need for alternative models of journalistic practice in which the press serves as a forum for more thoughtful and constructive processes of democratic deliberation. As a contribution to the field of normative press theory, this paper articulates a model of the press that derives from the teachings of the Baha'i Faith. At the core of this model are the principles and objectives of consultation, which is a collective decision-making process that Baha'is employ. This paper explores elements of this normative model of the press, which are scattered throughout a wide range of primary Baha'i texts, in order to bring the model into clearer focus. The purpose of the paper is to highlight the heuristic value of the model for press theorists and practitioners, inside and outside the Baha'i community.
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The field of epistemology is concerned with the nature, generation and justification of knowledge as well as the rationality of belief; addressing what makes beliefs justified, what it means to say that one knows something and how one knows it. It has been characterised by many debates such as those between rationalism and empiricism or those between absolute truth and relativism. In light of the often bipolar framing of such epistemic debates, the scholarship on ubuntu contains insights that help advance the idea of a “deliberative” epistemology, which is well positioned to resolve many such tensions. With this idea, which speaks to like-minded approaches that are couched within frameworks such as conversational philosophy and complementary reflection, I add the dimension of discourse (i.e. how we think, speak and therefore do) and show that by applying an alternative discursive lens, an ubuntu-inspired epistemology need not only account for experience and subjectivity, as typically presumed, but can also embrace a priori knowledge and objective truth.
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