The Incompatibility of Moral Relativism and Brennan’s Argument for Epistocracy


  • Donovan van der Haak Tilburg University



Analytical political philosophy, Democracy, Epistocracy, Jason Brennan, Meta-ethical moral relativism


In Against Democracy, Brennan argues in favor of restricting suffrage, proposing epistocracy. He argues political power should not be held by incompetent and morally unreasonable people (i.e., the competence principle) and that epistocracy would create more just outcomes than democracy. However, Brennan assumes his argument is compatible with different meta-ethical frameworks. In this article, I examine the extent to which his argument is challenged by meta-ethical moral relativism, aiming to answer the following central research question: what are the repercussions of meta-ethical moral relativism for Brennan’s use of the competence principle and the creation of just outcomes as an argument in favor of epistocracy over democracy? I argue that democracy better satisfies Brennan’s own principles compared to epistocracy, for the epistocratic reliance on experts renders epistocracy inherently incapable of collecting sufficient information about moral facts from the right voting population.

Author Biography

Donovan van der Haak, Tilburg University

Donovan van der Haak finished his Master’s degree in Philosophy (MA) at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. His research focuses on existentialism, meta-ethics and political philosophy. He wrote his thesis on the impact of meta-ethics on first-order politico-philosophical arguments, which was nominated for the Jan Brouwer Thesis Award, and he has published several articles on politico-philosophical topics such as populism, polarization and communitarianism. Email:




How to Cite

van der Haak, D. (2022). The Incompatibility of Moral Relativism and Brennan’s Argument for Epistocracy. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 54, 22–38.



Research articles