Skip to main content

Collective Intentionality and Methodological Individualism

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
The Palgrave Handbook of Methodological Individualism

Abstract

Collective intentionality (CI) designates a form of intentionality that cannot be understood in a summative way. For example, two persons who make a walk together do not simply intend individually to go their own way. Therefore, the question arises to what extent intentionality has to be understood as a concept that has to be extended beyond individual mental states. In this chapter, different approaches to CI are presented. According to the “reductive” analysis, CI can be analyzed in terms of individual mental states. In contrast to this approach, John Searle holds that the content of CI cannot be understood by an analysis based on an individual mode. Nevertheless, he holds that the bearers of CI can even be brains in a vat. This position is criticized, first, by those who argue that CI presupposes the idea of a collective subject and, second, by those who argue that an alternative to “individualistic” and “holistic” approaches can be seen in a relational understanding of CI. Nevertheless, in the chapter, it is argued that relational approaches do not necessarily contradict an individualistic understanding of CI.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 169.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 219.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. 1.

    Following Zahle, Jepperson’s and Meyer’s position may be classified as “temperate holism” which holds that “[e]xplanations in the social sciences must sometimes be strict holist explanations, i.e. refer to social wholes as wholes, their actions, properties, etc. only” (Zahle, 2007, p. 316).

  2. 2.

    Some extensions and explanations are given later (Bratman, 2014). They can be ignored in our context.

  3. 3.

    Public here refers to common knowledge.

  4. 4.

    With respect to the question of the causal relevance of collective intentions, the debate on collective intentionality has so far remained silent. However, it is crucial to the question of individualism and holism, as has become clear since Kim's work on emergence (Kim, 2000, 2005). If collective states supervene on individual states, this does not mean that they are independent in an ontological sense. Even if it remains epistemically unclear to which individual states exactly a collective state can be traced (the so-called non-aggregativity), the question remains how collective states can have an independent causal influence if they are ontologically identical to the individual states through which they are realized (Greve, 2012).

References

  • Baier, A. C. (1997). Doing things with others: The mental commons. In L. Alanen, S. Heinämaa & T. Wallgren (Eds.), Commonality and particularity in ethics. Swansea studies in philosophy (pp. 15–44). Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bratman, M. E. (1993). Shared intention. Ethics, 104(1), 97–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bratman, M. E. (1999). I intend that We J. In M. E. Bratman (Ed.), Faces of intention: Selected essays on intention and agency (pp. 142–161). Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bratman, M. E. (2014). Shared agency: A planning theory of acting together. Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bulle, N. (2018). Methodological individualism as anti-reductionism. Journal of Classical Sociology, 1–24.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bunge, M. (1996). Finding philosophy in social science. Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davidson, D. (1984). Inquiries into truth and interpretation. Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Di Iorio, F. (2023, forthcoming). Methodological individualism and reductionism. In N. Bulle & F. Di Iorio (Eds.), Palgrave handbook of methodological individualism (Vol. II). Palgrave.

    Google Scholar 

  • Donati, P., & Archer, M. S. (2015). The relational subject. Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Durkheim, E. (1982 [1894]). The rules of sociological method. Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, M. (1992). On social facts. Princeton University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, M. (2010). Culture as collective construction? In G. Albert & S. Sigmund (Eds.), Soziologische Theorie kontrovers. 50. Sonderheft der Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie (pp. 383–393). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, M. (2015). Joint action. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (Vol. 12, 2, pp. 839–843). Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greve, J. (2012). Emergence in sociology: A critique of non-reductive individualism. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 42(2), 188–223. (First online, 2010). 10.1177/ 0048393110381770.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heath, J. (2020). Methodological individualism—The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2020 Edition).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hodgson, G. M. (2007). Meanings of methodological individualism. https://core.ac.uk/display/1638809?utm_source=pdf&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=pdf-decoration-v1. Accessed 6 January 2023.

  • Huff, T. (1984). Max Weber and the methodology of the social sciences. Transaction Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jepperson, R., & Meyer, J. W. (2011). Multiple levels of analysis and the limitations of methodological individualisms. Sociological Theory, 29(1), 54–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johansson, I. (2003). Searle’s monadological construction of social reality. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 62(1), 233–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kim, J. (2000). Making sense of downward causation. In P. B. Anderson, C. Emmeche, N. O. Finnemann & P. V. Christiansen (Eds.), Downward Causation (pp. 305–321). Aarhus University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kim, J. (2005). Physicalism, or something near enough. Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kutz, C. (2000). Acting together. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 61(1), 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lohse, S. (2019). Die Eigenständigkeit des Sozialen. Zur ontologischen Kritik des Individualismus. Mohr Siebeck.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lukes, S. (1968). Methodological individualism reconsidered. The British Journal of Sociology, 19(2), 119–129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meijers, A. W. M. (2003). Can collective intentionality be individualized? The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 62(1), 167–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, T. (1951). The social system. Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, T., Bales, R., & Shils, E. A. (1953). Working papers in the theory of action. Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, T., Shils, E. A., Allport, G. W., Kluckhohn, C., Murray, H. A., Sears, R. R., et al. (1951). Some fundamental categories of the theory of action: A general statement. In T. Parsons & E. A. Shils (Eds.), Toward a General Theory of Action (pp. 3–29). Havard University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Pettit, P. (2003). Groups with minds of their own. In F. F. Schmitt (Ed.), Socializing metaphysics. The nature of social reality (pp. 167–193). Rowman & Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pettit, P. (2014). Three issues in social ontology. In J. Zahle & F. Collin (Eds.), Rethinking the individualism-holism debate. Essays in the philosophy of social science (pp. 77–96). Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pettit, P., & Schweikard, D. (2006). Joint actions and group agents. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 36(1), 18–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Risjord, M. (2104). Philosophy of social science. A contemporary introduction. Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schelling, T. C. (1978). Micromotives and Macrobehavior. W.W. Norton & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmid, H.-B. (2005). Wir-Intentionalität: Kritik des Ontologischen Individualismus und Rekonstruktion der Gemeinschaft. Alber.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schweikard, D. P. (2008). Limiting reductionism in the theory of collective action. In H. B. Schmid, K. Schulte-Ostermann & N. Psarros (Eds.), Concepts of sharedness—Essays on collective intentionality (pp. 89–117). Ontos.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schweikard, D. P., & Schmid, H.-B. (2021). Collective intentionality, the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Fall 2021 Edition). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2021/entries/collective-intentionality/. Accessed 6 January 2023.

  • Searle, J. R. (1990). Collective intentions and actions. In P. R. Cohen, J. Morgan, & M. Pollack (Eds.), Intentions in communication (pp. 401–415). MIT Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Searle, J. R. (1995). The construction of social reality. Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Searle, J. R. (2010). Making the social world. The structure of human civilization. Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Stoutland, F. (1997). Why are philosophers of action so anti-social?” In L. Alanen, S. Heinämaa & T. Wallgren (Eds.), Commonality and particularity in ethics. Swansea studies in philosophy (pp. 45–74). Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(5), 675–691 and 721–735.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tuomela, R. (2005). We-intentions revisited. Philosophical Studies, 125(3), 327–369.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tuomela, R., & Miller, K. (1988). We-intentions. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, 53(3), 367–389.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Udehn, L. (2001). Methodogical individualism. Background, history and meaning. Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Velleman, J. D. (1997). How to share an intention. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 57(1), 29–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, J. W. N. (1973 [1952]). Ideal types and historical explanation. In J. O'Neill (Ed.), Modes of individualism and collectivism (pp. 143–165). Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, J. W. N. (1973 [1957]). Historical explanation in the social sciences. In J. O'Neill (Ed.), Modes of individualism and collectivism (pp. 166–178). Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weber, M. (1958). From Max Weber; Essays in sociology (Translated, edited and with an Introduction by H. H. Gerth & C. Wright Mills). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weber, M. (1968 [1922]). Economy and society. An outline of interpretive sociology (G. Roth & C. Wittich, Eds.). University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wittgenstein, L. (2009 [1953]). Philosophical investigations. Wiley-Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zahle, J. (2007). Holism and supervenience. In S. P. Turner & M. W. Risjord (Eds.), Handbook of the philosophy of science. Philosophy of anthropology and sociology (pp. 311–341). Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jens Greve .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Greve, J. (2023). Collective Intentionality and Methodological Individualism. In: Bulle, N., Di Iorio, F. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Methodological Individualism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-41508-1_1

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-41508-1_1

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-41507-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-41508-1

  • eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics