Consensus and Philosophical Issues

  • Keith Lehrer
  • Carl Wagner
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series in Philosophy book series (PSSP, volume 24)


Various atomistic and individualistic theories of knowledge, language, ethics and politics have dominated philosophical thought from time to time. Such theories have not, however, proven to be adequate. One discovers and re-discovers that some social factor, some factor of agreement or consensus, whether explicitly contractual or implicitly presupposed, is necessary for an explication or explanation of some central or fundamental conception. Our intention is to offer a formal model of social consensus. We believe that our formal articulation of a conception of consensus is an advance over earlier efforts. It enables us to give a precise theory of rational consensus and an exact specificaiton of logical consequences. The formal model will be presented in two parts. First, we shall present a mechanical method or procedure, mathematically speaking, an algorithm, for finding a rational consensus from an initial starting point or input. We shall explore the application of this method to find consensual probabilities, utilities and weights. Our method will then be applied to some traditional philosophical problems concerning democracy, justice, science and language. Following this presentation, we will represent our methodology from an axiomatic point of view. In this second part, we shall formulate axioms as conditions of rational consensus and explain how our method satisfies those conditions. It will be useful, at the outset, to illustrate in some detail the fundamental role of the concept of consensus in a variety of philosophical problems. We shall begin with the most obvious applications, in politics and ethics, and then turn to less obvious applications, in science and language.


Social Choice Consensual Opinion Probability Assignment Philosophical Theory Philosophical Issue 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith Lehrer
    • 1
  • Carl Wagner
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. of PhilosophyThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Mathematics Dept.The University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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