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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 35, Issue 1, Spring 2021

James Stacey Taylor
Pages 13-29

The Myth of Semiotic Arguments in Democratic Theory and How This Exposes Problems with Peer Review

In a recent series or books and articles Jason Brennan and Peter M. Jaworski (writing both together and separately) have developed criticisms of what they term “semiotic” arguments. They hold that these arguments are widely used both to criticize markets in certain goods, to defend democracy, and criticize epistocracy. Their work on semiotics is now widely (and approvingly) cited. In this paper I argue that there is no reason to believe that any defenders of democracy or critics of epistocracy have offered semiotic arguments for their positions. I then explain how the operation of academic incentives has led to this being overlooked by both Brennan and Jaworski and their critics. I conclude with suggestions for how to revise peer review so that such errors are less likely to be made in the future.