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The Metaphysics of Collective Agency

The Metaphysics of Collective Agency

Chapter:
(p.219) 12 The Metaphysics of Collective Agency
Source:
Action, Ethics, and Responsibility
Author(s):
Todd Jones
Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262014731.003.0012

This chapter discusses the concept of responsibility as extended into a collective, such as a government or corporation. The responsibilities and beliefs of collectives have been an object of debate, meaning their existence is presupposed. However, the metaphysical underpinnings of collective agenthood are largely ignored. Currently there is no discussion regarding how it is possible for a collection of people to “believe” in the way that an individual can. The literal possibility of collective agency is argued here. First, however, it must be shown that groups can be intentional agents because something must be an intentional agent before becoming a moral agent. Once this is established, one can understand how groups can possibly be moral agents with certain responsibilities.

Keywords:   responsibility, collectives, collective agenthood, intentional agents, moral agent

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