The Structure of Group Agents

Christian List and Philip Pettit

in Group Agency

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199591565
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725494 | DOI:
The Structure of Group Agents

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This chapter builds on the previous two, looking at organizational structures by which the members of a group might aggregate their attitudes so as to enable them to act as a single agent. It shows that a group agent's attitudes will always supervene on the contributions of its members: they are determined by the members' attitudes just as the shapes on a grid are determined by the way the slots are filled in. But group attitudes can supervene on individual contributions only in a complex, holistic fashion. The group attitude towards a given proposition may depend not primarily on individual attitudes towards that proposition, but on individual attitudes towards a web of other propositions. In the limit, the group may accept a proposition that all members individually reject. The complexity of the relationship between the group's attitudes and those of its members implies that there is no easy translation between group-agency talk and talk of individuals. It supports the epistemological, though not the ontological, autonomy of group agents.

Keywords: organizational structure; supervenience; holism; autonomy; epistemology; ontology

Chapter.  9363 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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