Group agents and moral status: what can we owe to organizations?

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Abstract
Organizations have neither a right to the vote nor a weighty right to life. We need not enfranchise Goldman Sachs. We should feel few scruples in dissolving Standard Oil. But they are not without rights altogether. We can owe it to them to keep our promises. We can owe them debts of gratitude. Thus, we can owe some things to organizations. But we cannot owe them everything we can owe to people. They seem to have a peculiar, fragmented moral status. What explains this? Individualistic views explain this in terms of individualistic notions alone. Such notions don’t invoke any distinctive features of organizations. They just invoke the features of individual members of organizations. Collectivistic views, instead, explain this in terms of collective notions alone. Such notions don’t invoke the features of individual members of organizations. They just invoke the features of those organizations. We argue that neither approach works. Instead, one needs to synthesize the two approaches. Some individual interests, we think, are distinctively collective. We, as individuals, have a distinctive interest in playing a part in successful collective action. From this, so we argue, flows the apparently peculiar, fragmented moral status of organizations.
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First archival date: 2021-05-01
Latest version: 2 (2021-05-04)
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2021-05-01

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