An essay of mine on group agency has been published on Soziopolis. Soziopolis is a platform for sociologists and other social scientists maintained by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. My essay tries to convey the relevant implications of theories of groups agency, especially the proposal by List and Pettit, for the social sciences.
The essay is in German, which limits its readership on the one hand, but on the other hand the analytic debate on group agency has received less attention there so far. I hope I can contribute to changing this.
The first paragraph:
Die Beschäftigung mit Fragen des Gruppenhandelns – etwa danach, ob Organisationen zielorientiert handeln, Klassen genuine gesellschaftliche Akteure sind oder Staaten Handlungsfähigkeit besitzen – hat in der Soziologie eine lange Tradition. Dabei ist jedoch umstritten, ob Gruppen als irreduzible Akteure tatsächlich dasselbe Gewicht für soziologische Erklärungen haben wie Individuen, insbesondere, ob Gruppen dieselbe irreduzible kausale Rolle einnehmen. Können die Handlungen von Gruppen also Tatsachen kausal erklären, ohne dass eine individualistische Reduktion auch nur im Prinzip möglich wäre?
Next week (on the 16th of June) I am going to present a paper on corporations as group agents at the 3rd International Conference Economic Philosophy in Aix-en-Provence. In the paper I am going to discuss the specific problems one faces when on tries to take corporations as group agents.
I am afraid that if you have not registered yet for the Conference, it is too late for that now. However, I hope that at some point my thoughts on this topic will have matured enough that they can be published.
I am currently in Münster for a research visit, where I am a guest of professor Quante, who has produced important work on Hegel’s theory of action. Today I gave a talk discussing the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for group agency. I received some valuable feedback, which is going to help me to specify the conditions of group agency I argue for in my thesis better. I am not quite satisfied with the account offered by List and Pettit and try to figure out what is lacking from their account.
When one tries to seriously work interdisciplinary orientation often becomes difficult, because for most human beings it is not feasible to read all of the top publications in two disciplines. I know this from my own experience in the case of philosophy and sociology. Accordingly most sociologists who are interested in taking philosophical findings into account, will have a hard time doing so. For this reason I put together a reading list, which offers some orientation for sociologists which are interested in analytic metaphysics. I am construing the label “analytic metaphysics” broadly and also include texts, which argue for the existence of group agents. Continue reading “Reading List: Analytic Metaphysics for Sociologists”
Pettit, Philip. 2003: “Groups with Minds of Their Own”. In: Schmitt, Frederick F. (ed.). Socializing Metaphysics. Rowman & Littlefield. Lanham. 167-193.
For my research on group agency I have read many texts by Philip Pettit, this book chapter, however, escaped my attention so far, so it was time to catch up. The basic idea is familiar to everyone who has read others texts on group agency by Pettit, especially the book Group Agency which Pettit co-authored with Christian List. In “Groups with Minds of Their Own” Pettit puts the basic idea the following way:
“Rational unity is a constrain that binds the attitudes of the collectivity at any time and across different times, and the satisfaction of that constrain means that those attitudes cannot be smoothly continuous with the corresponding attitudes of members.” (p. 184)
Pettit claims that groups face a pressure to meet certain constrains, but that to meet these constrains, it is often necessary that the attitudes of the group cannot be continuous, or at least not smoothly continuous, with that of the members. The decisions a group makes can in appropriate situations bind it to basic norms of rationality like coherence over time, which pushes the group to accept attitudes, notably representational and motivational attitudes, which are not shared by the majority of the member and in some cases by no members at all. Continue reading “What I Am Reading: Pettit – Groups with Minds of Their Own”