Goods and Groups: Thomistic Social Action and Metaphysics

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 90:287-297 (2016)
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Hans Bernhard Schmid has argued that contemporary theories of collective action and social metaphysics unnecessarily reject the concept of a “shared intentional state.” I will argue that three neo-Thomist philosophers, Jacques Maritain, Charles de Koninck, and Yves Simon, all seem to agree that the goals of certain kinds of collective agency cannot be analyzed merely in terms of intentional states of individuals. This was prompted by a controversy over the nature of the “common good,” in response to a perceived threat from “personalist” theories of political life. Common goods, as these three authors analyze them, ground our collective action in pursuit of certain kinds of goals which are immanent to social activity itself. Their analysis can support an alternate position to “intentional individualism,” providing an account of collective practical reasoning and social metaphysics based on shared intentional states, but without involving implausible “group minds.”

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James Dominic Rooney
Hong Kong Baptist University

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