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Nicolas de Condorcet on Jury Theorem - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 148
Jury theorem/Condorcet/Dryzek: This theorem demonstrates that if each citizen has a better than even chance of being correct in his/her judgement, then the larger the number of voters, the greater the chance of the majority choosing the correct option. The jury theorem therefore justifies the rationality of majoritarian democracy, at least in a republican context of a search for the common good, though only if each citizen reaches and exercises independent judgement. So there should be no factions (which reduce the effective number of voters) and, it might seem, no communication. These, at least, were Rousseau's own views: deliberation should only be a matter of internal reflection, not communication. However, as Robert Goodin (2002(1): 125) and others point out, discussion is fine so long as people then subsequently exercise their own independent judgements when voting. >Democracy/Dryzek, >Deliberative Democray/Dryzek.
Problems with deliberation and democracy: If democracy involves aggregation (however much it is downplayed by deliberative democrats), that can be across judgements and not just across preferences as emphasized in social choice theory. Such judgements can involve disagreement over (say) what is in the common good. This epistemic way of thinking about democracy is associated with Rousseau, according to whom the general will can be ascertained by voting. Bernard Grofman and Scott Feld (1988)(2) argue that if indeed there is such a thing as the common good, though people differ in their judgements about which option will best serve it, then Condorcet's jury theorem applies.


1 Goodin, Robert E. (2002) Reflective Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Grofman, Bernard and Scott Feld (1988) 'Rousseau's general will: a Condorcetian perspective'. American Political Science Review, 82: 567-76.

Dryzek, John S. 2004. „Democratic Political Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Condo I
N. de Condorcet
Tableau historique des progrès de l’ esprit humain Paris 2004

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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