Social Epistemology 21 (4):349 – 368 (2007)

Katie Steele
Australian National University
Mark Colyvan
University of Sydney
Group decisions raise a number of substantial philosophical and methodological issues. We focus on the goal of the group decision exercise itself. We ask: What should be counted as a good group decision-making result? The right decision might not be accessible to, or please, any of the group members. Conversely, a popular decision can fail to be the correct decision. In this paper we discuss what it means for a decision to be "right" and what components are required in a decision process to produce happy decision-makers. Importantly, we discuss how "right" decisions can produce happy decision-makers, or rather, the conditions under which happy decision-makers and right decisions coincide. In a large range of contexts, we argue for the adoption of formal consensus models to assist in the group decision-making process. In particular, we advocate the formal consensus convergence model of Lehrer and Wagner (1981), because a strong case can be made as to why the underlying algorithm produces a result that should make each of the experts in a group happy. Arguably, this model facilitates true consensus, where the group choice is effectively each person's individual choice. We analyse Lehrer and Wagner's algorithm for reaching consensus on group probabilities/utilities in the context of complex decision-making for conservation biology. While many conservation decisions are driven by a search for objective utility/probability distributions (regarding extinction risks of species and the like), other components of conservation management primarily concern the interests of stakeholders. We conclude with cautionary notes on mandating consensus in decision scenarios for which no fact of the matter exists. For such decision settings alternative types of social choice methods are more appropriate.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/02691720601159711
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,079
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Social Choice and Individual Values.Irving M. Copi - 1952 - Science and Society 16 (2):181-181.

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Reasons, Coherence, and Group Rationality.Brian Hedden - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (3):581-604.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
50 ( #226,556 of 2,506,107 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #209,711 of 2,506,107 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes