Philosophical Studies

, Volume 168, Issue 1, pp 241–260

The free will of corporations (and other collectives)

Article

Abstract

Moderate holists like French (Collective and corporate responsibility, 1984), Copp (J Soc Philos, 38(3):369–388, 2007), Hess (The Background of Social Reality – A Survey, 2013), Isaacs (Moral responsibility in collective contexts, 2011) and List and Pettit (Group agency: The possibility, design, and status of corporate agents, 2011) argue that certain collectives qualify as moral agents in their own right, often pointing to the corporation as an example of a collective likely to qualify. A common objection is that corporations cannot qualify as moral agents because they lack free will. The concern is that corporations (and other highly organized collectives like colleges, governments, and the military) are effectively puppets, dancing on strings controlled by external forces. The article begins by briefly presenting a novel account of corporate moral agency and then demonstrates that, on this account, qualifying corporations (and similar entities in other fields) do possess free will. Such entities possess and act from their own “actional springs”, in Haji’s (Midwest Stud Philos, 30(1):292–308, 2006) phrase, and from their own reasons-responsive mechanisms. When they do so, they act freely and are morally responsible for what they do.

Keywords

Free will Ultimate origination Collective agency Collective intentionality Collective responsibility Corporations 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of the Holy CrossWorcesterUSA

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