Phenomenal consciousness, collective mentality, and collective moral responsibility
Are corporations and other complex groups ever morally responsible in ways that do not reduce to the moral responsibility of their members? Christian List, Phillip Pettit, Kendy Hess, and David Copp have recently defended the idea that they can be. For them, complex groups (sometimes called collectives) can be irreducibly morally responsible because they satisfy the conditions for morally responsible agency; and this view is made more plausible by the claim (made by Theiner) that collectives can have minds. In this paper I give a new argument that they are wrong. Drawing on recent work in the philosophy of mind (what Uriah Kriegel calls “the phenomenal intentionality research program”) and moral theory (David Shoemaker’s tripartite theory of moral responsibility), I argue that for something to have a mind, it must be phenomenally conscious, and that the fact that collectives lack phenomenal consciousness implies that they are incapable of accountability, an important form of moral responsibility.
KeywordsCollective moral responsibility Moral responsibility Accountability Intentionality Phenomenal consciousness
I would like to thank Brett Sherman, Bill FitzPatrick, Kate Ritchie, Dustin Crummett, Bill Rowley, Kelly Annesley, James Otis, Hayley Clatterbuck, an anonymous reviewer for Philosophical Studies, and an audience at the Pacific APA for helpful feedback and discussion.
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