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Abstract of paper and event description:

Driven by concern about the potential harms of widespread political ignorance, several political philosophers have recently defended epistocracy, a political arrangement where greater amounts of political power are allocated to those who possess more knowledge of politically relevant facts. Such proposals have been criticized on the grounds that they would be susceptible to manipulation and abuse. Rather than allocating more political power to those who possess more knowledge of politically relevant facts, those entrusted with such a task may choose instead to amplify the power of their supporters, harm their political opponents, and so on. Call this the ‘problem of political capture’. In this paper I closely examine the problem of political capture. After first outlining and motivating the case for epistocracy (Section 1), I clarify both the nature and the severity of the problem of political capture (Section 2). I then argue that its severity depends upon, among other things, the extent to which epistocratic institutions can be combined with institutional mechanisms for safeguarding against abuse. An important upshot of this is that not all forms of epistocracy are as seriously afflicted by the problem of political capture (Section 3). I conclude, though, by suggesting that it is nonetheless reasonable to worry about the problem of political capture. However, the problem is not specific to epistocracy, but afflicts political institutions in general. A thoroughgoing concern for political abuse, then, militates not only against epistocratic institutions, but also many extant political institutions widely viewed as uncontroversial.


Bush House Southeast Wing Room 1.05, King’s College London

About the Speaker:

Adam Gibbons is an assistant professor of philosophy at Lingnan University, where he also works with the Hong Kong Catastrophic Risk Centre. He received his PhD from the philosophy department at Rutgers University, New Brunswick in 2022. Before that, he studied philosophy and cognitive science at University College Dublin. He works primarily in social and political philosophy, especially as they intersect with epistemology, political economy, and political science.