An Epistemic Theory of Democracy

ISBN : 9780198823452

Robert E. Goodin; Kai Spiekermann
480 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
May 2018
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Among the many attractive features of democracy is its tendency to track the truth, at least under certain idealized assumptions. That basic result has been known since 1785, when Condorcet published his famous Jury Theorem, but its assumptions have been regarded as too restrictive to apply to the real world. In An Epistemic Theory of Democracy, Goodin and Spiekermann show that those assumptions can be substantially weakened while preserving those same truth-tracking properties. They discuss different ways of making the theorem genuinely applicable to the real world, and use the theorem to assess how various familiar political institutions and practices might best take advantage of the truth tracking potential of majoritarian democracy. The book concludes with a discussion of how epistemic democracy might be undermined, as illustrated by the Trump and Brexit campaigns.


1 Introduction
Part I: The Condorcet Jury Theorem
2 The Classic Framework
3 Extensions
4 Limitations
5 Independence Revisited
Part II: Epistemic Enhancement
6 Improving Individual Competence
7 Diversity
8 Division of Epistemic Labour
9 Discussion and Deliberation
Part III: Political Practices
10 Respecting Tradition
11 Following Leaders
12 Taking Cues
13 Pluralism: Differing Values & Priorities
14 Factionalism: Differing Interests
Part IV: Structures of Government
15 Epistocracy or Democracy
16 Direct versus Representative Democracy
17 Institutional Hindrances to Epistemic Success
18 Institutional Aids to Epistemic Success
Part V: Conclusions
19 The Relation Between Truth and Politics, Once Again
20 Headline Findings, Central Implications
21 Epilogue: What About Trump and Brexit?
A1 Key to Notation
A2 Estimating Group Competence by Monte Carlo Simulation

About the author: 

Bob Goodin is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Australian National University. He is Founding Editor of the Journal of Political Philosophy and was General Editor of the eleven-volume series of Oxford Handbooks of Political Science. Goodin's work centres on political theory and public policy. He is co-author of, most recently, On Complicity and Compromise and Explaining Norms, both published by OUP in 2013. ; Kai Spiekermann is Associate Professor of Political Philosophy at the London School of Economics. Among his research interests are normative and positive political theory, philosophy of the social sciences, social epistemology and environmental change. He is particularly interested in applying formal methods, computational simulations, and experiments to problems in political philosophy. His recent publications have focused on mechanisms of norm avoidance, strategic ignorance and moral knowledge, on information aggregation, jury theorems and epistemic democracy, and on reductionism and holism in the social sciences.

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