Aggregating sets of judgments: An impossibility result

Economics and Philosophy 18 (1):89-110 (2002)
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Abstract
Suppose that the members of a group each hold a rational set of judgments on some interconnected questions, and imagine that the group itself has to form a collective, rational set of judgments on those questions. How should it go about dealing with this task? We argue that the question raised is subject to a difficulty that has recently been noticed in discussion of the doctrinal paradox in jurisprudence. And we show that there is a general impossibility theorem that that difficulty illustrates. Our paper describes this impossibility result and provides an exploration of its significance. The result naturally invites comparison with Kenneth Arrow's famous theorem (Arrow, 1963 and 1984; Sen, 1970) and we elaborate that comparison in a companion paper (List and Pettit, 2002). The paper is in four sections. The first section documents the need for various groups to aggregate its members' judgments; the second presents the discursive paradox; the third gives an informal statement of the more general impossibility result; the formal proof is presented in an appendix. The fourth section, finally, discusses some escape routes from that impossibility.
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