Condorcet's Jury Theorem and Democracy

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology 1 (2022)
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Abstract

Suppose that a majority of jurors decide that a defendant is guilty (or not), and we want to know the likelihood that they reached the correct verdict. The French philosopher Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) showed that we can get a mathematically precise answer, a result known as the “Condorcet Jury Theorem.” Condorcet’s theorem isn’t just about juries, though; it’s about collective decision-making in general. As a result, some philosophers have used his theorem to argue for democratic forms of government. This essay explains Condorcet’s theorem and how philosophers have used it as an argument for democracy.

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Wes Siscoe
University of Notre Dame

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