Voters' cough

May 26, 1995

Smoking has caused more complicated problems for Birkbeck College philosophers: when someone demanded that their common room be no-smoking they could not decide on how to decide whether it should.

After two years of talks, the philosophers decided that voting was the best solution. They voted, 25 to 23, against. But there was consternation when it was discovered that each philosopher seemed to have employed their personal theories about democracy in casting their vote. Some voted on personal preference, others on their conception of the public good and some according to what they thought the majority wanted. The saga is now used to illustrate the problems with democracy in undergraduate lectures.

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