How I Learned to Worry about the Spaghetti Western: Collective Responsibility and Collective Agency

Analysis 77 (2):anx067 (2017)
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Abstract

In recent years, collective agency and responsibility have received a great deal of attention. One exciting development concerns whether collective, non-distributive responsibility can be assigned to collective non-agents, such as crowds and nation-states. I focus on an underappreciated aspect of these arguments—namely, that they sometimes derive substantive ontological conclusions about the nature of collective agents from these responsibility attributions. I argue that this order of inference, whose form I represent in what I call the Spaghetti Western Argument, largely fails, even if the cases described are all too common. I show that it does not generate a generalizable, reliable conclusion about the kind of entity that is the plausibly responsible party. In particular, a group may lack agency in a given instance, be non-distributively responsible in that same instance and yet be a collective agent across time.

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Caroline T. Arruda
University of Texas at El Paso

Citations of this work

The Samaritan’s Curse: Moral Individuals and Immoral Groups.Kaushik Basu - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (1):132-151.

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