ENCODE: Explicating Norms of Collective Deliberation

Project information

  • Obtained by: dr. F. Van De Putte
  • Funded by: NWO (VIDI-project)
  • Total grant: €799,000
  • Starting: april 1st 2021


From a country’s decision to leave the EU, to jury convictions in criminal trials, to friends figuring out where to have dinner: collective decisions are everywhere. But when are they truly democratic?

According to a prominent view, democracy requires more than the aggregation of opinions. Citizens should engage in a discussion, justify and mutually adjust their positions, and eventually arrive at a consensus or meta-agreement on the decision problem at hand, before they vote. Such collective deliberation should moreover satisfy principles such as rationality, equality, and truthfulness, in order to count as democratic.

This deliberative ideal is widely endorsed and even cited as a solution to the current crisis of Western democracies. However, there is no unified, mathematical model of deliberation that allows us to clarify exactly what deliberative democrats want and to check the joint compatibility of the various principles they endorse. This stands in sharp contrast with our understanding of opinion aggregation, which has made great progress due to the presence of mathematical models in social choice theory.

The ENCODE project will fill this gap, by developing a formal framework of collective deliberation in which its components and dynamics are characterized with mathematical precision. Drawing on my expertise, the framework will be obtained by a novel synthesis of cutting edge techniques in philosophical logic and informed by state of the art work in political science, decision theory, and argumentation theory. Within this framework, we will study specific combinations of norms that regulate the deliberative ideal, in order to map out the tensions and trade-offs between them.


Frederik Van De Putte is assistent professor at the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics and the Erasmus School of Philosophy. He also holds a postdoctoral fellowship of the Scientific Research Foundation of Flanders (FWO), at Ghent University. See his personal webpage for more information on his research and work.

Lee Elkin is a postdoctoral researcher working on the project since March 1st, 2022. He obtained his PhD in philosophy at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, at LMU Munic and held postdoc positions in Universit´e Paris-Est Créteil, at LMU, and at Jagiellonian University.

Nicolien Janssens works on the ENCODE project as a PhD student as of April 1st, 2022. She previously obtained an MA in Logic from the Institute of Logic, Information, and Communication (University of Amsterdam)."

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