Personifying 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:
Personifying Group Agents

Show Summary Details


There are two conceptions of a person, one instrinsicist, the other performative. The intrinsicist conception holds that it is the substance an agent is composed of that makes it a person, the performative that it is the agent's capacity to perform in a certain way. This chapter adopts the performative conception, maintaining that persons are agents that are capable of having demands made upon them, and of making reciprocal demands in turn, within a system of norms. It then goes on to argue that group agents can count as persons in that sense. What does this imply? It certainly implies that group agents can be held to the demands of interpersonal respect. But does it mean that group agents have rights on a par with individuals? Absolutely not. Our primary normative concern should be with individuals and while that concern supports the assignment of responsibility to group agents, it does not support the assignment of equal rights to them. Group agents should be given only those rights that are defensible within a normatively individualist frame of thought and often should be subject to especially strict checks and controls. Restrictions on the state are accepted in the theory of the limited state, restrictions on churches in the theory of the separation of church and state, but not enough thought has been given to the restrictions that ought to be imposed on commercial corporations. This has been particularly true in the United States, where jurisprudence has taken corporations to be persons protected under the fourteenth amendment to the constitution.

Keywords: person; intrinsicist; performative; respect; rights

Chapter.  8403 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.