Update

In researching how new media affect the public and private spheres in relation to democratic theory, it was important to have a grasp on some of the most influential formulations of the ideal public sphere from the past. One of the prominent theorists of the ideal public sphere was Immanuel Kant.

For Kant, valid laws were aligned with morality. In his book, The Critique of Pure Reason, he formulated the Categorical Imperative, according to which one should act in ways that one would see fit for all other rational people to act. Thus, when people were “self-legislating,” they should imagine that the justifications for the actions would be approved by all other rational-thinkers (i.e. the sensus communis). The ideal public sphere, then, would be a place if rational-critical debate between rational persons, wherein people would have to argue their viewpoints in public and be subject to the arguments of others in the public. For Kant, this sphere of rational-critical debate would result in a public opinion that was synonymous with truth. This public opinion, then, would inform the sovereign’s decisions and work to align the nation’s laws with morality.

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