The Moral Agency of Group Agents
- 262 Downloads
Christian List and Philip Pettit have recently developed a model of group agency on which an autonomous group agent can be formed, by deductive inference, from the beliefs and preferences of the individual group members. In this paper I raise doubts as to whether this type of group agent is a moral agent. The sentimentalist approach to moral responsibility sees a constitutive role for moral emotions, such as blame, guilt, and indignation, in our practices of attributing moral responsibility. These moral emotions are important for the alignment of moral understandings, and for valuing other members of the moral community. I argue that while the intentional objects of beliefs and preferences are propositions, the intentional objects of moral emotions are other agents. Because agents are not subject to rules of inference, we cannot generate group agent emotions—such as guilt—in the same way as we can generate group agent beliefs and preferences. And because the group agents lack moral emotions, we have reason to resist treating them as moral agents.
I presented versions of this paper to the OZSW Conference, VU University Amsterdam (2015), the ‘Grundlegung’ research seminar, University of Groningen (2015), and the Hope and Trust Workshop, University of Frankfurt (2016). I am grateful for the comments received from audience members. I am also grateful for the comments received from Tony Booth, Boudewijn de Bruin, Katherine Hawley, Frank Hindriks, Jens van’t Klooster, Marco Meyer, Alex Oliver, Tom Simpson, and two anonymous referees.
The author was supported by postdoctoral funding from the NWO project ‘Trusting Banks’ (Project Number 360-20-310).
- Bratman, M. E. (2004). Shared valuing and frameworks for practical reasoning. In R. J. Wallace, P. Pettit, & S. Scheffler (Eds.), Reason and value: Themes from the moral philosophy of Joseph Raz. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
- de Sousa, R. (1987). The rationality of emotions. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Helm, B. (2014). Emotional communities of respect. In C. von Scheve & M. Salmela (Eds.), Collective emotions. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
- List, C. (2016). What is it like to be a group agent? Noûs. doi: 10.1111/nous.12162.
- Scheffler, S. (2011). Valuing. In R. J. Wallace, R. Kumar, & S. Freeman (Eds.), Reasons and recognition: Essays on the philosophy of T.M. Scanlon. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
- Silver, D. (2005). A Strawsonian defence of corporate moral responsibility. American Philosophical Quarterly, 42(4), 279–293.Google Scholar
- Tollefsen, D. (2008). Affectivity, moral agency, and corporate–human relations. APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Law, 7, 9–13.Google Scholar
- Wallace, R. J. (2008). Emotions, expectations and responsibility. In P. Russell & M. McKenna (Eds.), Free will and reactive attitudes: Perspectives on P.F. Strawson’s ‘freedom and resentment. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.Google Scholar
- Watson, G. (2011). The trouble with psychopaths 1. In R. J. Wallace, R. Kumar, & S. Freeman (Eds.), Reasons and recognition: Essays on the philosophy of T.M. Scanlon. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
- Wolff, S. (1985). The legal and moral responsibility of organizations. In J. Roland Pennock & J. W. Chapman (Eds.), Criminal justice: NOMOS XXVII. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar