12th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Bennett/Michael

Michael Bennett

Instrumental and Epistemic Benefits of Deliberation

This paper looks at how deliberation can instrumentally promote justice because of its epistemic and motivational effects. I begin by drawing a distinction between two different senses in which a process like deliberation can promote justice. The more familiar way of thinking about instrumental value is the value a tool has as a means to advancing a determinate conception of justice. However, we can also ask what will promote justice, whatever justice turns out to be. In other words, we can ascribe instrumental value to something without relying on any particular conception of justice. I suggest that this is the kind of instrumental value deliberation can have. Deliberation is instrumentally valuable in this sense when it has positive epistemic effects – when it improves the knowledge of participants about what should be done. In the second part of the paper, I look in more detail at the concrete mechanisms through which deliberation can produce epistemic and instrumental value. I argue that deliberation tends to bring epistemic benefits to the extent that ideal conditions of diligent and sincere motivation are fulfilled. I then look at some mechanisms endogenous to nonideal deliberation, which can help to remedy shortfalls from ideal motivation. I conclude by pointing out the limitations of my argument. Showing how deliberation can be valuable is not the same as arguing that it is. An all-things-considered case for deliberation in inevitably nonideal circumstances also has to consider the epistemic dangers of deliberative pathologies, and the opportunity costs of pursuing better knowledge.