Collective acts

Synthese 187 (1):223-241 (2012)
Groups of people perform acts. For example, a committee passes a resolution, a team wins a game, and an orchestra performs a symphony. These collective acts may be evaluated for rationality. Take a committee’s passing a resolution. This act may be evaluated not only for fairness but also for rationality. Did it take account of all available information? Is the resolution consistent with the committee’s past resolutions? Standards of collective rationality apply to collective acts, that is, acts that groups of people perform. What makes a collective act evaluable for rationality? What methods of evaluation apply to collective acts? This paper addresses these two questions. Collective rationality is rationality’s extension from individuals to groups. The paper’s first few sections review key points about rationality. They identify the features of an individual’s act that make it evaluable for rationality and distinguish rationality’s methods of evaluating acts directly and indirectly controlled. This preliminary work yields general principles of rationality for all agents, both individuals and groups. Applying the general principles to groups answers the paper’s two main questions about collective rationality.
Keywords Control  Coordination  Decision theory  Game theory  Plans  Rationality
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-011-0027-1
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