Conversation_and_collective_belief_paper.doc

The notion of commitment at issue here is a normative

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The notion of commitment at issue here is a normative one: to be committed in the sense at issue here is to be subject to a type of normative constraint as opposed to being in a particular psychological state. 15 A joint commitment falls into a class of commitments that may plausibly be thought of as commitments of the will . A joint commitment as understood here is not an aggregate of independent personal commitments such as one accrues by virtue of making a personal decision. By definition here, a personal commitment is created by the person in question and unilaterally rescindable by him. If Sarah and Nick are jointly committed in some way they have together committed the two of them . As a result each of them is, of course, committed , but these commitments are not personal commitments as just defined. What we may call the associated individual commitments of Sarah and Nick are such that neither one holds sway over his or her commitment as one does over the personal commitment engendered by one’s personal decision: if I want to change a personal decision of mine it is as simple as changing my own mind. But a joint commitment to which I am subject is not mine to change. It is ours, rather, and only we together can rescind it. Hence each is stuck with his (or her) individual commitment till the joint commitment is rescinded by both. What is it for people jointly to commit one another to believe some proposition as a body ---the particular form of joint commitment at issue in the plural subject account of collective belief? One way of explaining this is roughly as follows: the parties will fulfill their joint commitment if---at least in the context of the present interaction, and to the extent that this is 14 For extended discussion see Gilbert (2006: ch. 7); also Gilbert (2003).. 15 See Gilbert (forthcoming). 12
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13 possible, they emulate, by virtue of the several actions and utterances of all combined, a single body that believes that p. 16 In more familiar terms, they are to act as if they are “of one mind” with respect to p. In this connection it is important to emphasize that in order that the parties conform to their joint commitment to believe that p as a body it is not necessary for each individual personally to believe that p . Thus no one is committed through the joint commitment to himself personally believing that p. That is perhaps just as well since many philosophers have doubted whether one can believe something at will. What difference does it make to a person, normatively speaking, that he is subject to a joint commitment? On the one hand, he is subject to a commitment of the general type a personal decision subjects him to. Though this matter is controversial, it can be argued that one who is subject to any such a commitment has reason to act accordingly, where that means something like this: all else being equal, he must act accordingly if he is to respond appropriately to the considerations bearing on his situation.
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