Phenomenal consciousness, collective mentality, and collective moral responsibility

Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2769-2786 (2017)
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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 against the idea that collectives can be irreducibly morally responsible in the ways that individuals can be. 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.

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Matthew Baddorf
Walters State Community College


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