Friday, March 31, 2006

Conference #1

Thankfully yesterday - after three/four days writing - I finally finished a first draft of my Formal Theory research essay 'What sort of Rationality property should Collective Decision Procedures possess?' (of which this is an excerpt) Still some work to do finishing footnotes, and editing out just over 2,500 words(!), but essentially I argue:

"When we remember that decision-making rules are not given but rules we adopt, it seems more natural to consider not the rationality of the rules per se (the meaning of which is, in any case, deeply unclear), but what rules it would be rational for us to adopt. In some circumstances, it might be rational to employ simple majority rule, in others the Borda count, and in others something like lottery voting. It is this rationality that, I have argued, we should be concerned with. Thus what matters is whether a given procedure suits the purposes we currently want, when we are choosing procedures. To postulate some further restriction, such as ‘collective rationality’, is unnecessary, because where we do require a rule that will obey axioms such as consistency, transitivity and completeness, then it will not be rational for us to choose a rule that doesn’t respect them. I’ve argued, however, that if we see the collective decision-making as merely deciding what to do on this occasion, we should be less worried by these issues. Thus, to impose such restrictions on our procedures a priori is unhelpful – perhaps even itself irrational – if they are not properties we, as rule-choosing individuals, require on this occasion. We should be open to the rationality of adopting lottery voting, and not blinded to such alternatives by the assumption collective decision-rules should behave like rational individuals."

That's not what I'm concerned about now though. I'm just glad I've got it done, because today is the first day of the CSSJ/CPI conference on the Conceptual History of Social Justice. (I'm sure at some point it was about 'Origins' - still, the notion of social justice was comparatively late; it clearly isn't what Plato's talking about in the Republic for example...)

I'm only going out of general interest. It's not really my area, so I don't think I'll find anything right up my street, but I might learn something new and/or interesting, even at a quite basic level.

And, on a vaguely related note, Chris Brooke has a series of interesting questions about 'the Enlightenment' - another topic I know little about, but perhaps because of its fragmentary and ambiguous nature.


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