What it Might Be like to Be a Group Agent

Neuroethics 14 (3):437-447 (2021)
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Abstract

Many theorists have defended the claim that collective entities can attain genuine agential status. If collectives can be agents, this opens up a further question: can they be conscious? That is, is there something that it is like to be them? Eric Schwitzgebel argues that yes, collective entities, may well be significantly conscious. Others, including Kammerer, Tononi and Koch, and List reject the claim. List does so on the basis of Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory of consciousness. I argue here that List’s rejection is too quick, and that groups can, at least in principle, display the kind of informational integration we might think is necessary for consciousness. However, group consciousness will likely differ substantially from the individual experiences that give rise to it. This requires the defender of group consciousness to face up to a similar combination problem as the panpsychist.

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Max F. Kramer
University of Arizona

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