On Being a ‘We’: Edith Stein’s Contribution to the Intentionalism Debate

Human Studies 38 (4):529-547 (2015)

Authors
Timothy Burns
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota
Abstract
It is commonplace to speak of social groups as if they were capable of the same sorts of activities as individuals. We say, “Germany won the World Cup”; “The United States invaded Iraq”; and “The world mourned the passing of Nelson Mandela”. In so doing, we attribute agency, belief, and emotional states to groups themselves. In recent years, much literature devoted to analyzing such statements and their implications has emerged. Within this literature, the issue of “intentionalism,” whether individuals must have a certain self-conception in order to constitute a collectivity, has received surprisingly little attention. While Paul Sheehy has criticized this view, claiming that individuals may be related in such a way as to constitute a collective without their realizing it :377–394, 2002), little other scholarship on the topic exists. The purpose of this article is to contribute to this debate. I will argue, drawing on Edith Stein’s phenomenology of social groups, that intentionalism, as Margaret Gilbert defines it, is false. I begin by establishing Gilbert’s account, Sheehy’s criticism of intentionalism, and what I take to be its shortcomings. I then explicate Stein’s phenomenology of collectives and argue that plural subjects who do not meet intentionalist requirements can exist. Given this, intentionalism must be rejected. Because the intentionalism debate presupposes that there are irreducibly social agents, I do not argue for this claim
Keywords Edith Stein  Intentionalism  Margaret Gilbert  Phenomenology  Phenomenology of sociality  Plural subject theory
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DOI 10.1007/s10746-015-9359-z
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References found in this work BETA

Collective Intentions and Actions.John Searle - 1990 - In Philip R. Cohen Jerry Morgan & Martha Pollack (eds.), Intentions in Communication. MIT Press. pp. 401-415.

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Citations of this work BETA

Shared Emotions: A Steinian Proposal.Gerhard Thonhauser - 2018 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 17 (5):997-1015.
On the Vulnerability of a Community: Edith Stein and Gerda Walther.Antonio Calcagno - 2018 - Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 49 (3):255-266.

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