Conversation_and_collective_belief_paper.doc

Such obligations are generally referred to as

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Such obligations are generally referred to as “directed” obligations. It is this type of obligation that correlates with rights of the type at issue here, referred to as “claim-rights” in rights theory. 10
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11 any one member of the pertinent group in a position to rebuke a group member who says something contrary to what we believe. The Sue and Brian example shows that even when the conditions of the complex summative account are fulfilled that does not suffice to put group members in that position. There is a non-summative account of collective belief that better accords with all the observations made so far concerning everyday collective belief ascriptions. To invoke a technical term that will be explained shortly, it is a plural subject account of collective belief. A plural subject account of collective belief In everyday speech one hears frequent references not only to what we believe, but also to what we are doing, what we like, what we prefer, what we intend, and so on. In earlier work Margaret Gilbert has argued that all of these expressions refer to those who are connected in a specified manner. To use a phrase that will be explained shortly, they must be jointly committed in a certain way. The following discussion focuses on the basic case of joint commitment in which no prior authority relations are involved. This is the case most apposite for present purposes. 13 What does it take for there to be a joint commitment? Roughly: in conditions of common knowledge, each party must have openly expressed his or her willingness jointly to commit them all to believe some proposition, accept some goal, endorse some value, and so on, as a body, thus effecting such a joint commitment of them all. Gilbert has used her technical phrase “plural subject” to refer to those who are jointly committed with one another in some way: these people constitute a plural subject in her sense. The key to plural subject-hood, then, is joint commitment. According to the plural subject account of collective belief, for persons A and B A and B collectively believe that p if and only if A and B form a plural subject of the belief that p. Alternatively and equivalently (and more perspicuously): 13 On basic versus non-basic cases see e.g. Gilbert (2006: ch. 7). 11
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12 A and B collectively believe that p if and only if A and B are jointly committed to believe that p as a body. Though for present purposes this type of two person case will be our focus, there would seem to be no limit in principle on how many persons can be involved. Some further amplificatory remarks are in order. 14 Those who are jointly committed need not know each other personally or know of each other. Thus A and B may collectively believe that p qua persons who share a certain feature , such as “being part of the crowd in the square” or “being members of Indiana University”.
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