Plural agents

Noûs 42 (1):17–49 (2008)
Genuine agents are able to engage in activity because they find it worth pursuing—because they care about it. In this respect, they differ from what might be called “mere intentional systems”: systems like chess-playing computers that exhibit merely goal-directed behavior mediated by instrumental rationality, without caring. A parallel distinction can be made in the domain of social activity: plural agents must be distinguished from plural intentional systems in that plural agents have cares and engage in activity because of those cares. In this paper, I sketch an account of what it is for an individual to care about things in terms of her exhibiting a certain pattern of emotions. After extending this account to make sense of an individual's caring about other agents, I then show how a certain sort of emotional connectedness among a group of people can make intelligible the group's having cares and thereby constitute that group as a plural agent. Alternative accounts of social action, by ignoring the difference between mere intentional systems and genuine agents, and so by leaving out these emotional entanglements from their accounts of social action, thereby fail to capture a whole range of social phenomena involving plural agents.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2007.00672.x
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Daniel C. Dennett (1991). Real Patterns. Journal of Philosophy 88 (1):27-51.

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