Cognitive Primitives of Collective Intentions: Linguistic Evidence of Our Mental Ontology

Mind and Language 27 (2):109-134 (2012)
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Theories of collective intentions must distinguish genuinely collective intentions from coincidentally harmonized ones. Two apparently equally apt ways of doing so are the ‘neo-reductionism’ of Bacharach (2006) and Gold and Sugden (2007a) and the ‘non-reductionism’ of Searle (1990, 1995). Here, we present findings from theoretical linguistics that show that we is not a cognitive primitive, but is composed of notions of I and grouphood. The ramifications of this finding on the structure both of grammatical and lexical systems suggests that an understanding of collective intentionality does not require a primitive we-intention, but the notion of grouphood implicit in team reasoning, coupled with the individual concept I. This, we argue, supports neo-reductionism but poses difficulties for non-reductionism

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Natalie Gold
London School of Economics


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