Strengthening the Epistemic Case against Epistocracy and for Democracy

Social Epistemology 37 (1):110-126 (2022)
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Abstract

Is epistocracy epistemically superior to democracy? In this paper, I scrutinize some of the arguments for and against the epistemic superiority of epistocracy. Using empirical results from the literature on the epistemic benefits of diversity as well as the epistemic contributions of citizen science, I strengthen the case against epistocracy and for democracy. Disenfranchising, or otherwise discouraging anyone to participate in political life, on the basis of them not possessing a certain body of (social scientific) knowledge, is untenable also from an epistemic point of view. Rather than focussing on individual competence, we should pay attention to the social constellation through which we produce knowledge to make sure we decrease epistemic loss (by ensuring diversity and inclusion) and increase epistemic productivity (by fostering a multiplicity of perspectives interacting fruitfully). Achieving those epistemic benefits requires a more democratic approach that differs significantly from epistocracy.

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Jeroen Van Bouwel
University of Ghent

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