The epistemic pathologies of elections and the epistemic promise of lottocracy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


There are many ways of evaluating legal and political institutions. This chapter introduces a new way to evaluate legal and political institutions: in terms of their sensibility. I define sensibility as the ability to appreciate and to respond to the world as it is, with two distinct components: (1) appreciating (or understanding or knowing) the world as it is, and (2) responding to the world in light of this appreciation. The first of these concerns the epistemic capacities of institutions. The second of these concerns the agential capacities of institutions. Having introduced the idea of sensibility, the chapter then focuses on a comparison of two different institutional arrangements-(1) electoral representative systems and (2) lottocratic systems of government, as introduced in this chapter-in terms of their epistemic quality or expected epistemic quality. I begin by drawing attention to several concerns about the sensibility of electoral representative institutions, focusing particularly on epistemic pathologies of those institutions. The second part of the chapter discusses an alternative kind of political institution, which I call a lottocratic political institution, and argues that we might well expect these institutions to be more sensible alternatives, at least under some conditions, on epistemic grounds. The negative contribution of the chapter, then, is to raise a series of challenges to the sensibility of electoral representative institutions. The positive contribution of the chapter is to suggest a direction for future institutional thinking, empirical study, and experimentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPolitical Epistemology
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780192893338
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Electoral representative
  • Epistemic capacity
  • Ignorance
  • Institutional design
  • Lottocracy
  • Political epistemology
  • Sensibility


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