Political Disagreement and Minimal Epistocracy

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 19 (2) (2021)
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Despite their many virtues, democracies suffer from well-known problems with high levels of voter ignorance. Such ignorance, one might think, leads democracies to occasionally produce bad outcomes. Proponents of epistocracy claim that allocating comparatively greater amounts of political power to citizens who possess more politically relevant knowledge may help us to mitigate the bad effects of voter ignorance. An important challenge to epistocracy rejects the claim that we can reliably identify a subset of citizens who possess more politically relevant knowledge than others. Roughly put, such knowledge should involve knowledge of various politically relevant social-scientific facts. But since the social sciences are mired in controversy, it’s not clear what the politically relevant facts are. Accordingly, we cannot definitively say of some citizens that they possess more politically relevant knowledge than others. Call this the Argument from Political Disagreement. In this paper I respond to the Argument from Political Disagreement. First, I argue that it conflates social-scientific knowledge with politically relevant knowledge. Even if there were no uncontroversial social-scientific knowledge, there is much uncontroversial politically relevant knowledge. Second, I establish the importance of such non-social-scientific knowledge for political decision-making. I conclude that this knowledge constitutes the minimal body of knowledge which epistocrats need to make their case.



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Adam F. Gibbons
Lingnan University

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References found in this work

Who is an epistemic peer?Axel Gelfert - 2011 - Logos and Episteme 2 (4):507-514.
Is the public incompetent? Compared to whom? About what?Gerald Gaus - 2008 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 20 (3):291-311.

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