Friday, October 14, 2011

How to Decide: Majority vote? or Specialist Opinion?

   In some prior articles (here and here) I wrote about church government, and one of my points was that it is not up to the majority to decide on any given issue. Rather, it is the qualified person who should decide. I gave an example, something along the following lines: If you have a problem with your liver, are you going to post it on facebook and ask what you should do? Whatever the majority agrees upon, that is what you will do? No. At least I hope not. You will most likely go to a doctor, a specialist, a person who knows the subject in question and who can make the appropriate decisions based upon his knowledge of Medicine.
   I was reading the Laches by Plato today and came across an interesting quote by Socrates. The Laches begins with a conversation between two men who are trying to decide upon what is the best way to educate two boys that they are responsible for. They approach Laches, Nicias, and Socrates is included in the mix. After having heard the preliminary opinions of Nicias and Laches, the two men turn to Socrates and ask for Socrates to cast his vote because Nicias and Laches disagree. If Socrates sides with one of the two men, then the decision will be made. Socrates responds in the following way:

  "Socrates: ... Suppose there should be a council to decide whether your son ought to practice a particular kind of gymnastic exercise, would you be persuaded by the greater number or by whoever has been educated and exercised under a good trainer?
  Melesias: Probably by the latter, Socrates.
  Socrates: And would you be persuaded by him rather than by the four of us?
  Melesias: Probably.
  Socrates: So I think it is by knowledge that one ought to make decisions, if one is to make them well, and not by majority rule.
  Melesias: Certainly.
  Socrates: So in this present case it is also necessary to investigate first whether any of us is an expert in the subject we are debating, or not. And if one of us is, then we should listen to him even if he is only one, and disregard the others. But if no one of us is an expert, then we must look for someone who is. (184e-185a)"

    The point that Socrates makes is the same point that I was trying to make in the other articles that I wrote; that is, we should not be seeking the opinions of the majority when we seek to make a decision, but the opinion of those qualified to make the decision in question.