Journal Article

Many-Minds Arguments in Legal Theory

Adrian Vermeule

in Journal of Legal Analysis

Published on behalf of The John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business at Harvard Law School with the support of the Considine Family Foundation

Volume 1, issue 1, pages 1-45
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 2161-7201
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1946-5319 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4159/jla.v1i1.7
Many-Minds Arguments in Legal Theory

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Many-minds arguments claim that in some way or another, groups of decisionmakers tend to make better decisions than individuals. This essay identifies five general and recurring problems with such arguments, as follows: (1) Whose minds? The group or population whose minds are at issue is often equivocal or ill-defined. (2) Many minds, worse minds. The number of minds endogenously influences their quality, often for the worse. More minds can be systematically worse than fewer because of selection effects, incentives for epistemic free-riding, and emotional and social influences. (3) Epistemic bottlenecks. The epistemic benefits of many minds are often diluted or eliminated because the structure of institutions funnels decisions through an individual decision-maker, or a small group of decision-makers, who occupy an epistemic bottleneck or chokepoint. (4) Many minds vs. many minds. The institutional comparisons that pervade legal theory are typically many-to-many comparisons rather than one-to-many. (5) Many minds vs. other values. Epistemic considerations systematically trade off against other goods, such as the costs of decision-making and the expression of moral norms. The epistemic quality of the laws is a good to be optimized, not maximized.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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