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Beyond epistemic democracy: the identification and pooling of information by groups of political agents.

Thompson, Christopher Jeremy (2011) Beyond epistemic democracy: the identification and pooling of information by groups of political agents. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis addresses the mechanisms by which groups of agents can track the truth, particularly in political situations. I argue that the mechanisms which allow groups of agents to track the truth operate in two stages: firstly, there are search procedures; and secondly, there are aggregation procedures. Search procedures and aggregation procedures work in concert. The search procedures allow agents to extract information from the environment. At the conclusion of a search procedure the information will be dispersed among different agents in the group. Aggregation procedures, such as majority rule, expert dictatorship and negative reliability unanimity rule, then pool these pieces of information into a social choice. The institutional features of both search procedures and aggregation procedures account for the ability of groups to track the truth and amount to social epistemic mechanisms. Large numbers of agents are crucial for the epistemic capacities of both search procedures and aggregation procedures. This thesis makes two main contributions to the literature on social epistemology and epistemic democracy. Firstly, most current accounts focus on the Condorcet Jury Theorem and its extensions as the relevant epistemic mechanism that can operate in groups of political agents. The introduction of search procedures to epistemic democracy is (mostly) new. Secondly, the thesis introduces a two-stage framework to the process of group truth-tracking. In 4 addition to showing how the two procedures of search and aggregation can operate in concert, the framework highlights the complexity of social choice situations. Careful consideration of different types of social choice situation shows that different aggregation procedures will be optimal truth-trackers in different situations. Importantly, there will be some situations in which aggregation procedures other than majority rule will be best at tracking the truth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Christopher Jeremy Thompson
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: List, Christian and Bradley, Richard and Dietrich, Franz

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