Conversation_and_collective_belief_paper.doc

Intuitively that each member of the group personally

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of the group. Intuitively, that each member of the group personally believes p does not make the belief that p a belief of the group, and the addition of common knowledge as in the complex account does not change this. The group plays no essential role in such a set-up. An example may help to back this up. Suppose---as seems likely---that that every member of a given philosophy department believes that ants are smaller than elephants. Further suppose that it is common knowledge in the department that each member believes this. Despite each member of the department so believing, and despite the common knowledge of this belief amongst all members, we would not be inclined to say “The Philosophy Department believes that ants are smaller than elephants” without more information about the case. The Philosophy Department is already a group. One might think however that were certain parties collectively to believe something, that would make them into a group. If this is right, it too casts doubt on both of the summative accounts so far considered. Suppose---as seems likely--- that all females 59.7 inches high believe that ants are smaller than elephants. Intuitively, this does not raise the population consisting of such females to the level of a group. Nor does the supposition that it is common knowledge among them that they all have the belief in question have this effect. To help sharpen the point that the conditions posited in neither of the summative accounts considered are sufficient for collective belief, consider the following example. Imagine that the same fourteen individuals make up both the philosophy club and the humanities soft ball team. Most of these individuals believe it is always best to run on a fly ball; this belief is common knowledge among them. Let us assume that the humanities softball team believes that it is always best to run on a fly ball, as well it might. There is no contradiction in also saying that the philosophy club holds no opinion whatsoever on the matter. Indeed, this is very likely true. 6
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7 It seems, then, that for a group to believe that p it is not logically sufficient either that all or most group members believe that p, or that there is common knowledge within the group that all or most members believe that p . A further argument for this conclusion will be offered shortly. 8 The non-necessity of the summative condition Imagine that the University Event committee is meeting to discuss the celebration of the University’s 50 th anniversary. Phyllis, a member of the committee, suggests, “J.K. Rowling would make a great keynote speaker.” Some discussion ensues, with positive comments outnumbering negative ones. After a while someone asks, “So we agree that Rowling would make great speaker?” This time the members of the group either voice their agreement or remain silent. The matter is settled: Rowling would make a great speaker.
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