Argumentation and deliberative democracy

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Ever since the ancient Greeks, debate has been seen as a centerpiece of the democratic political process. Partisans of deliberative democracy have pushed for a greater integration of citizens into the debates surrounding policy making. However, this movement has faced a backlash by people emphasizing the supposedly limited argumentative skills of laymen and the bad outcomes that can arise from group discussions. It is possible to look at data from experimental psychology to try and disentangle these issues.

     This paper is a first stab at such an endeavour. Hélène Landemore and I have written a paper that will integrate insights from political science and psychology in support of deliberative democracy, hopefully delineating the conditions that can make debates, as opposed to solitary reasoning or voting, the best way to make political decisions. We are also working on a second paper on the same topic.

A possible representation
the Athenian Boule
(found here)


Sperber, D. & Mercier, H. (2013) “Reasoning as a social competence”. In Landemore, H. and Elster, J. (Eds.) Collective Wisdom

Mercier, H., 
Landemore, H. (2011) "Reasoning is for arguing: Understanding the successes and failures of deliberation"  Political Psychology.

Landemore, H. & Mercier, H. (2012) "Talking it out’: Deliberation with others versus deliberation within". Análise Social