I'm interested in the oldest and/or most notable articulation of what a potential ideal decision-making / governance approach would aspire to.

More concretely, consider an idealized decision-making process for a group where:

  1. It knows everything relevant that could be known.
  2. It can think and reason as much as necessary, considering all possible arguments, future scenarios, etc. and their implications.
  3. It knows itself perfectly and has perfect self-control (both individually, collectively, and in combination with whatever supporting tools it is using).
  4. It is able to identify that which has the most common ground in order to navigate disagreements and come to as coherent of a consensus as is possible.

There also might be a 5th criteria that could make this 'democratic'—that everyone being impacted by the decision is equally included.

This all describes a potential aspirational, unattainable ideal for all but the most simple decisions (e.g. toward the end of a game of tic tac toe, this might be possible!). It can be considered a potential rubric by which one might measure a group decision-making process against. I'm curious to find a name for this ideal/rubric/aspiration, or at least its components. This ideal seems like the sort of thing that would have been mentioned by even the 'ancients' across different philosophical cultures.

I'm also interested in who has created those names, or described this sort of ideal in the past, either notable philosophers or notable non-philosophers who have written about this—e.g. leaders, scientists, etc.

One of the closest examples of this that I am aware of in mainstream discourse is the idea of "idealized deliberation" as articulated by e.g. Philip Kitcher, but I would be very surprised if he was the first!

  • What is Common Sense?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


It might be argued that the "most notable articulation" would be the modern study of 'Social Choice Theory'. Lots of people through the ages have had thoughts on how societies should be ruled - divine-right monarchies, priesthoods, utopian idealists, Hobbes Leviathan, Machiavelli's The Prince, but most of these have been incremental, unsystematic, self-justifying, and culturally parochial.

The point where we started thinking about the question mathematically - Condorcet voting, Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem, Game Theory - surely stands out as a major leap forward in our understanding of the issue. The criteria listed in Arrow's Theorem in particular would seem to fit your 'articulation of ideals'. It's certainly not the oldest, nor the most historically or culturally influential, but it's arguably the best justified.

  • Social choice theory is very useful, but as far as I know, it has not been used to articulate anything approximating the "deliberative ideal decision-making / governance" that I describe. If there is an example of such an articulation (ideally with a specific name), that could be a decent answer.
    – avv
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 22:58

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