Commitments in Groups and Commitments of Groups

Phenomenology and Mind 1 (9):74-82 (2015)
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I argue that a group can have normative commitments, and that the commitment of a group is not merely a sum or aggregate of the commitments of individual group members. I begin with a set of simple cases which illustrate two structurally different ways that group commitments can go wrong. These two kinds of potential failure correspond to two different levels of commitment: one at the individual level, owed to the other group members, and one at the group level, which the group as a single body owes either to itself or to some third party. I distinguish the content of a commitment (what must be done for the commitment to be fulfilled) from the holder of that commitment: the party to whom the content is owed. I then discuss examples which support the two-level view of group commitment and show that, even when individual-level and group-level commitments have the same content, they are understood to have different holders. Finally I return to my original cases and argue that a two-level structure of group commitment allows us to make sense of the problems that occur in them.
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