Solitary social belief

Synthese 194 (6) (2017)
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Many contemporary accounts of social belief are committed to the view that social beliefs can only be held by a plurality of individuals. Gilbert Socializing metaphysics, 2003) characterizes “joint commitments” as the “social atoms” of social belief and other forms of social intentionality, and Tuomela maintains that social belief and other forms of social intentionality are bound by a “collectivity condition.” Such theorists thus rule out the possibility of solitary social belief, that is, a social belief held by an individual that is not socially shared by members of a social group. Such theorists also reject Searle’s account of social intentionality as being too individualistic, but I argue that the same kind of solitary social intentions that can arise on Searle’s account can also arise on the accounts offered by Gilbert and Tuomela. This is a consequence of the fact that neither Gilbert nor Tuomela hold that social intentionality is a supra-individual form of intentionality that is different in kind from the intentionality of individuals who comprise and constitute plural subjects and social groups. I also argue for the possibility of solitary social belief by providing a characterization of social beliefs that is independent of their relation to collective action, and provide two illustrative real-life examples. While no doubt rare, the reality of solitary social beliefs is a consequence of the dynamical nature of social beliefs, namely their orientation to the represented, or, in the case of solitary social beliefs, misrepresented beliefs of members of a social group



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John Greenwood
CUNY Graduate Center

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