Collective reasoning and the discursive dilemma

Philosophical Explorations 6 (3):182 – 200 (2003)
Abstract
The paper begins with a discussion of Philip Pettit's distinction between individualistic and collectivistic reasoning strategies. I argue that many of his examples, when correctly analysed, do not give rise to what he calls the discursive dilemma. I argue for a collectivistic strategy, which is a holistic premise-driven strategy. I will concentrate on three aspects of collective reasoning, which I call the publicity aspect, the collective acceptance aspect, and the historical constraint aspect: First, the premises of collective reasoning, unlike the premises of a private individual, have to be public in some sense. Second, the group members collectively accept the public premises, and thereby commit themselves to following them in their collective practical reasoning.Third, a person need not be consistent with his earlier private judgements, he is free to change his mind, but prior collective judgements, if not collectively abandoned, constrain the member's future judgements and decisions. I conclude that collective practical reasoning can be accounted for without collectivist ontological commitments.
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