Academic journal article Contemporary Pragmatism

Inclusion and the Epistemic Benefits of Deliberation

Academic journal article Contemporary Pragmatism

Inclusion and the Epistemic Benefits of Deliberation

Article excerpt


Deliberative democrats regard inclusion to be an important deliberative ideal (Young 2000; Mansbridge et al. 2012). Along with the procedural principles like reciprocity, publicity, accountability, and equality, inclusion is an important procedural precondition for deliberation. From a moral standpoint, there are at least two reasons for including all citizens in a collective decision-making process. First, inclusion respects the agency of citizens to affect policies and laws that bind them. Second, inclusion legitimizes collective decisions: democracy requires that one's interests, voices, and perspectives are taken into consideration in the decision-making process in relevant sorts of ways.

Deliberative democrats also recognize that the legitimacy of democracy is dependent, at least partially, on the quality of deliberation.1 Deliberation is an exercise of practical reasoning among free and equal citizens for collectively deciding what they ought to do. Legitimacy is one of the central normative concepts for deliberative democracy because of the fundamental belief that any laws or policies must be mutually justifiable to all (Chambers 2003; Thompson 2008). This moral idea is not independent of the more instrumental concern of improving the quality of deliberation. According to Cristina Lafont (2014), the realization of deliberative democracy stands or falls with improving the quality of deliberation. One important way of improving the quality of deliberation is to build the epistemic capacities of deliberation: that is, the capabilities and powers of the deliberative process in producing and pooling diversely situated knowledge.

However, the normative ideals of inclusion and improving the epistemic capacities of deliberation seem to conflict. If the goal is to improve the epistemic capacities of deliberation, then it seems that we have to exclude some people and their opinions, values, or perspectives. While one may think that including millions of people in a decision-making process brings down the epistemic quality of deliberation, I argue that a more inclusive polity does not necessarily conflict with the goal of building the epistemic capacities of deliberation. My main argument considers a property of democracy that is usually thought of in non-epistemic terms: the normative ideal of inclusion. Inclusion is valuable because a minimal condition for a robust democracy is to include all those who are affected by decisions in the very process that affects them. This moral side of inclusion is unassailable. While a lot of philosophers think that inclusion is morally or politically valuable, and I agree on that point, I will argue that inclusion also has some instrumental (read: epistemic) merits.

My argument proceeds in five steps. The first section analyzes whether the normative ideal of inclusion and epistemic capacities of deliberation conflict. The second and third sections consider two epistemic benefits of inclusive deliberation. The second section argues that inclusive deliberation creates a condition in which citizens talk and listen to each other, and this process engenders a collective social learning. The third section argues that inclusive deliberation can be helpful in reducing biases and errors endemic to a society. Having advanced two normative arguments for inclusive deliberation, the fourth section considers three models of inclusive deliberation that can bring about epistemic benefits of pooling diversely situated knowledge. I consider the Condorcet Jury Theorem, Helene Landemore's cognitive diversity argument, and Deweyan experimentalism.2 In the final section, I appeal to the recent deliberative systems literature to suggest that the epistemic benefits of inclusive deliberation can be realized at the large scale.

1 The Compatibility of Inclusion and Epistemic Capacities of Deliberation

The central problem of this essay is whether the project of improving the epistemic capacities of deliberation conflicts with the goal of inclusive and equal polity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.