Holding them responsible

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 30 (1):74–93 (2006)
Abstract
[Opening paragraph:] Ontological realism or holism about social groups is the thesis that groups are composite material particulars. Social groups are entities over which we quantify in the set of our best descriptions and explanations of the social world. The realist explains that a group considered in its own right can be causally responsible for the production of events or states of affairs. We do more than just describe and furnish explanations of the phenomena of the social world. In our ordinary discourse and in the arenas of policy formation, legislation and the administration of laws we make moral judgments of groups and seek to direct action toward them. Granted realism about groups the concern of the present paper is the sense in or extent to which we can talk literally of a group as such being morally responsible, and, in particular, of whether it is apt to make responsibility judgments of large groups such as nations. That is, whether a group considered as an entity in its own right can be the appropriate bearer of the full-blown ascription of moral responsibility. For when we talk of individuals being collectively responsible we seem to just pick out as the responsible party them as a group—the individual members regarded jointly or collectively as one unit.
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