This paper discusses Raimo Tuomela's we-mode account in his recent book "Social Ontology: CollectiveIntentionality and Group Agents" and develops the idea that mode should be thought of as representational. I argue that in any posture – intentional state or speech act – we do not merely represent a state of affairs as what we believe, or intend etc. – as the received view of 'propositional attitudes' has it –, but our position relative to that state of affairs (...) and thus ourselves. That is, we represent the subject through what I call "subject mode" and its position through what I call "position mode". I argue that the key to understanding collectiveintentionality is to understand how we represent others as co-subjects of positions rather than as their objects. This is shown on various levels of collectiveintentionality. On the non-conceptual level of joint attention we experience others as co-subjects who we attend with rather than to and who we are at least also disposed to act jointly with. On the conceptual level of the we-mode we represent others as co-subjects of positions of knowledge, intention, belief and shared values. Organizations and thus group agents in Tuomela's sense I propose to understand in terms of what I call "role mode", that is, in terms of the positions individuals and groups take as occupants of certain roles, for example, as committee members, or as chancellor of Germany. I try to show how this account, while very much in the spirit of Tuomela's, can avoid his fictionalism about group agents and some other problems of his account, while steering between the Scylla of excessive individualism and the Charybdis of extreme collectivism. (shrink)
According to we-mode accounts of collectiveintentionality, an experience is a "we-experience"—that is, part of a jointly attentional episode—in virtue of the way or mode in which the content of the experience is given to the subject of experience. These accounts are supposed to explain how a we-experience can have the phenomenal character of being given to the subject "as ours" rather than merely "as my experience" (Zahavi 2015), and do so in a relatively conceptually and cognitively undemanding (...) way. Galotti and Frith (2013) and Schmitz (2017) present we-mode accounts that are supposed to, in particular, avoid the need for the subjects of experience to have common knowledge of each other’s perceptual beliefs. In this paper, drawing in part on Schutz’s (1932/1967; 1953) writings on "the pure We-relationship", I argue that appeal to a we-mode does not render common knowledge unnecessary. To explain when we-experiences are veridical, we-mode accounts must (i) explain how a we-experience can enable rational interpersonal coordination in some high-risk situations and (ii) explain why what is experienced is "out in the open" between the subjects of the we-experience. To do this, proponents of we-mode accounts need an account of common knowledge. In addition, they must explain why certain inferences hold between we-mode and I-mode attitudes. In light of this, we-mode accounts fare no better than content accounts in illuminating how basic forms of collectiveintentionality are possible. (shrink)
In this chapter, we focus on collective action and intention, and their relation to conventions, status functions, norms, institutions, and shared attitudes more generally. Collective action and shared intention play a foundational role in our understanding of the social. -/- The three central questions in the study of collectiveintentionality are: -/- (1) What is the ontology of collectiveintentionality? In particular, are groups per se intentional agents, as opposed to just their individual members? (...) (2) What is the psychology of collectiveintentionality? Do groups per se have psychological states, in particular propositional attitudes? What is the psychology of the individuals who participate in collective intentional behavior? What is special about their participatory intentions, their we-intentions, as they are called (Tuomela and Miller 1988), as opposed to their I-intentions? (3) How is collectiveintentionality implicated in the construction of social reality? In particular, how does the content of we-intentions and the intentional activity of individual agents create social institutions, practices and structures? -/- We first discuss collective action and shared intention in informal groups. Next we discuss mechanisms for constructing institutional structures out of the conceptual and psychological resources made available by our understanding of informal joint intentional action. Then we extend the discussion of collective action and intention to institutional groups, such as the Supreme Court, and explain how concepts of such organizations are constructed out of the concepts of a rule, convention, and status function. Finally we discuss collective attitudes beyond intention. (shrink)
The paper aims to shed light on Searle’s notion of collectiveintentionality as a primitive phenomenon shared by all humans. The latter could be problematic given that there are individuals who are unable to grasp collectiveintentionality and fully collaborate within the framework of “we-intentionality”. Such is the case of individuals with autism, given that the lack of motivation and skills for sharing psychological states with others is one of the diagnostic criteria for Autistic Spectrum (...) Disorders. The paper will argue that exclusion of individuals with autism is not a threat for Searle’s notion of collectiveintentionality, as the notion can be read as merely a biological disposition that all human beings share. Furthermore, the paper proposes the extension of Searle’s concept of CI so it can include behaviors of individuals who have the disposition towards CI, but which was not evolved through ontogenesis; namely, for individuals with autism. (shrink)
The Routledge Handbook of CollectiveIntentionality is the first of its kind, synthesizing research from several disciplines for all students and professionals interested in better understanding the nature and structure of social reality. The contents of the volume are divided into eight sections, each of which begins with a short introduction: Collective Action and Intention Shared and Joint Attitudes Epistemology and Rationality in the Social Context Social Ontology Collectives and Responsibility CollectiveIntentionality and Social Institutions (...) The Extent, Origins, and Development of CollectiveIntentionality Semantics of Collectivity The eight sections contain a total of 40 accessible chapters, all written exclusively for this volume by a team of internationally recognized experts. Each chapter ends with a References and a Further Reading section as well as cross-references to other germane chapters in the volume. A longer General Introduction provides an initial overview of the history as well as the current issues and problems in collectiveintentionality, the range of topics and their interconnections, and the organization of the _Handbook_. Systematic in its approach and thorough and detailed in its coverage_, The Routledge Handbook of Collective Intentionality_ provides readers with a valuable reference to this rapidly growing, cross-disciplinary research area and a trailhead to its most promising future directions. (shrink)
Many of the things we do, we do together with other people. Think of carpooling and playing tennis. In the past two or three decades it has become increasingly popular to analyze such collective actions in terms of collective intentions. This volume brings together ten new philosophical essays that address issues such as how individuals succeed in maintaining coordination throughout the performance of a collective action, whether groups can actually believe propositions or whether they merely accept them, (...) and what kind of evidence, if any, disciplines such as cognitive science and semantics provide in support of irreducibly collective states.The theories of the Big Four of collectiveintentionality -- Michael Bratman, Raimo Tuomela, John Searle, and Margaret Gilbert -- and the Big Five of Social Ontology -- which in addition to the Big Four includes Philip Pettit -- play a central role in almost all of these essays. Drawing on insights from a wide range of disciplines including dynamical systems theory, economics, and psychology, the contributors develop existing theories, criticize them, or provide alternatives to them.Several essays challenge the idea that there is a straightforward dichotomy between individual and collective level rationality, and explore the interplay between these levels in order to shed new light on the alleged discontinuities between them. These contributions make abundantly clear that it is no longer an option simply to juxtapose analyses of individual and collective level phenomena and maintain that there is a discrepancy. Some go as far as arguing that on closer inspection the alleged discontinuities dissolve. (shrink)
The concept of recognition has played a role in two debates. In political philosophy, it is part of a communitarian response to liberal theories of distributive justice. It describes what it means to respect others’ right to self-determination. In ethics, Stephen Darwall argues that it comprises our judgment that we owe others moral consideration. I present a competing account of recognition on the grounds that most accounts answer the question of why others deserve recognition without answering the question of what (...) is involved in recognizing them. This paper answers the latter. I argue that, in general, recognition is something that we do to others rather than something that we think about others. In particular, recognition is an intentional action to treat another individual as a legitimate, self-determining agent. I then show that recognition's realizability requires that agents understand their intentions as dependent on others for their satisfaction. Thus, relations of recognition are instances of collectiveintentionality. (shrink)
I summarize and evaluate the aims of the collection From Individual to CollectiveIntentionality: New Essays edited by Sara Rachel Chant, Frank Hindriks and Gerhard Preyer in the context of the on-going debate about collectiveintentionality and group agency. I then consider the individual essays contained therein, both from the perspective of how they advance the collection’s goals and the coherence of their individual arguments.
The family presents an interesting challenge to many conceptions of collective activity and the makeup of social groups. Social philosophers define social groups as being comprised of individuals who knowingly consent to their group membership or voluntarily act to continue their group membership. This notion of voluntarism that is built into the concept of a social group rests upon a narrow conception of agency that is difficult to extend beyond able-minded autonomous adults. Families, however, are often comprised of members (...) who supposedly lack this developed sense of agency and are therefore considered incapable of consenting to join or remain in a group: infants and small children. So, the family seems to be an odd fit for the designation of social group, even though it is often heralded as a paradigm example of one. In this paper I argue that children and infants are in fact agents who are capable of collectiveintentionality, especially in the context of the family where they act cooperatively and reciprocally with their caretakers. In doing so, I present an understanding of the family as a social group that has degrees of voluntarism for all members in the forms of joint readiness and joint commitment. I argue for this in three steps. First, I employ Margaret Gilbert’s concepts of joint commitment and joint readiness as a framework for collectiveintentionality. Second, echoing Carol Gould, I argue that we ought to expand our understanding of agency beyond the ideal case. Third, I draw upon recent research from Michael Tomasello that demonstrate a child’s ability to act cooperatively and reciprocally. Together these steps provide a strong foundation for the claim that children and infants are agents capable of collectiveintentionality within families. (shrink)
I investigate collectiveintentionality (CI) through the “Ought” implies “Can” (OIC) principle. My leading question is does OIC impose any further requirement on CI? In answering the challenge inside a Searlean framework, I realize that we need to clarify what CI's structure is and what kind of role the agents joining a CI-act have. In the last part of the paper, I put forward an (inverted) Hartian framework to allow the Searlean CI theory to be agent sensitive and (...) cope with the problems that emerged. (shrink)
The paper aims to clarify and scrutinize Searle"s somewhat puzzling statement that collectiveintentionality is a biologically primitive phenomenon. It is argued that the statement is not only meant to bring out that "collectiveintentionality" is not further analyzable in terms of individual intentionality. It also is meant to convey that we have a biologically evolved innate capacity for collectiveintentionality.The paper points out that Searle"s dedication to a strong notion of collective (...)intentionality considerably delimits the scope of his endeavor. Furthermore, evolutionary theory does not vindicate that an innate capacity for collectiveintentionality is a necessary precondition for cooperative behavior. 1. (shrink)
This article examines two empirical research traditions—experimental economics and the social identity approach in social psychology—that may be seen as attempts to falsify and verify the theory of collectiveintentionality, respectively. The article argues that both approaches fail to settle the issue. However, this is not necessarily due to the alleged immaturity of the social sciences but, possibly, to the philosophical nature of intentionality and intentional action. The article shows how broadly Davidsonian action theory, including Hacking’s notion (...) of the looping effect of the human sciences, can be developed into an argument for the view that there is no theory-independent true nature of intentional action. If the Davidsonian line of thought is correct, the theory of collectiveintentionality is, in a sense, true if we accept the theory. Key Words: collectiveintentionality • experimental economics • social identity theory • Donald Davidson • Ian Hacking • constructivism • action • agency • philosophy of the social sciences. (shrink)
People often do things together and form groups in order to get things done that they cannot do alone. In short they form a collectivity of some kind or a group, for short. But if we consider a group on the one hand and the persons that constitute the group on the other hand, how does it happen that these persons work together and finish a common task with a common goal? In the philosophy of action this problem is often (...) solved by saying that there is a kind of collective intention that the group members have in mind and that guides their actions. Does such a collective intention really exist? In this article I’ll show that the answer is “no”. In order to substantiate my view I’ll discuss the approaches of Bratman, Gilbert and Searle on collective intention. I’ll put forward four kinds of criticism that undermine the idea of collective intention. They apply mainly to Bratman and Gilbert. First, it is basically difficult to mark off smaller groups from bigger unities. Second, most groups change in membership composition over time. Third, as a rule, on the one hand groups are internally structured and on the other hand they belong to a larger structure. It makes that generally it cannot be a collective intention that moves the actions of the members of a group. Fourth, conversely, most individual actions cannot be performed without the existence of a wider context of agents who support these actions and make them possible. My critique on Searle mainly involves that in his approach his idea of collective intention is superfluous and that he is not radical enough in his idea that collective action is based on coordinated individual intentions and actions. However, it is a good starting point for showing how collective action actually functions, especially when combined with Giddens’s structuration theory. Every agent in a group executes his or her own individual intentions, relying on what the group offers to this agent and asks from him or her. In this way individual actions of the members of a group are coordinated and it makes that the group can function and that its goals can be performed. And in this way the group is produced and reproduced by fitting individual actions together. An individual agent who belongs to a group only needs to know what s/he wants and what s/he has to do in the group, even if s/he has no knowledge of the intentions and commitments of the other members. Then he or she can do things together with others in a group without supposing that there is something like a collective intention. (shrink)
I think there is something to be said in a positive and constructive vein about collectiveintentionality in non-human animals. Doing so involves probing at the concept of collectiveintentionality fairly directly (Section 2), considering the various forms that collectiveintentionality might take (Section 3), showing some sensitivity to the history of appeals to that concept and its close relatives (Section 4), and raising some broader questions about the relationships between sociality, cognition, and institutions (...) by discussing two different possible cases of collectiveintentionality in non-human animals: that of the social insects (Section 5) and that of highly social mammals, such as canines (Section 6). If the discussion here is on track, then the widely shared perspective on collectiveintentionality exemplified by the work of Searle and Tomasello needs to be reconsidered. (shrink)
This volume presents a systematic philosophical theory related to the collectivism-versus-individualism debate in the social sciences. A weak version of collectivism (the "we-mode" approach) that depends on group-based collectiveintentionality is developed in the book. The we-mode approach is used to account for collective intention and action, cooperation, group attitudes, social practices and institutions as well as group solidarity.
This paper approaches questions of collectiveintentionality by drawing inspiration from theories of recognition (e.g. Honneth 1995, Ricoeur 2005, Brandom 2007). After some remarks about recognition and groups, the paper examines whether the kind of dependence on recognition that holds of individual agents is equally true of group agents. In the debates on collectiveintentionality it is often stressed that the identity, existence, ethos, and membership-issues of the group are up to the group to decide (e.g. (...) Tuomela 2007). The members collectively accept (recognize) status functions, goals and beliefs for the group. This paper asks whether this thesis of "forgroupness" should be re-evaluated: could the status functions, goals and beliefs be in some significant sense "for others" as well? Can the group be dependent on others’ takes? -/- . (shrink)
According to many philosophers and scientists, human sociality is explained by our unique capacity to “share” attitudes with others. The conditions under which mental states are shared have been widely debated in the past two decades, focusing especially on the issue of their reducibility to individual intentionality and the place of collective intentions in the natural realm. It is not clear, however, to what extent these two issues are related and what methodologies of investigation are appropriate in each (...) case. In this article, I propose a solution that distinguishes between epistemic and ontological interpretations of the demand for the conditions of reduction of collectiveintentionality. While the philosophical debate has contributed important insights into the former, recent advances in the cognitive sciences offer novel resources to tackle the latter. Drawing on Michael Tomasello’s research in the ontogeny of shared intentionality in early instances of interaction based on joint attention, I propose an empirically informed argument of what it would take to address the ontological question of irreducibility, thus making a step forward in the naturalization of collectiveintentionality. (shrink)
This book develops a novel approach to distributed cognition and collectiveintentionality. It is argued that collective mentality should be only be posited where specialized subroutines are integrated in a way that yields skillful, goal-directed behavior that is sensitive to concerns that are relevant to a group as such.
Current debates on collectiveintentionality focus on the cognitive capacities, attitudes, and mental states that enable individuals to take part in joint actions. It is typically assumed that collectiveintentionality is a capacity which is added to other, pre-existing, capacities of an individual and is exercised in cooperative activities like carrying a table or painting a house together. We call this the additive account because it portrays collectiveintentionality as a capacity that an individual (...) possesses in addition to her capacity for individual intentionality. We offer an alternative view according to which the primary entity to which collectiveintentionality has to be ascribed is not the human individual, but a “form of life.” As a feature of a form of life, collectiveintentionality is something more than the specific capacity exercised by an individual when she cooperates with others. Collectiveintentionality transforms all the capacities of the bearers of this specific form of life. We thus call our proposal the transformative account of collectiveintentionality. (shrink)
There are many ways to advance our understanding of the human mind by studying different kinds of sociality. Our aim in this introduction is to situate claims about extended cognition within a broader framework of research on human sociality. We briefly discuss the existing landscape, focusing on ways of defending socially extended cognition. We then draw on resources from the recent literature on the socially extended mind, as well as the literature on collectiveintentionality, to provide a framework (...) for thinking about the social dimension of individual minds. We then turn to a brief overview of the individualistic approaches advanced by Ludwig and Spaulding in this volume. And we close with a discussion of the transformative role of the social mind in individual life presented by Kern and Moll, as well as the distributed approach to interacting systems defended by Goldstone and Theiner. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that contemporary theories of collectiveintentionality force us to think about anarchy in new and challenging ways. In the years since Wendt declared the state a person, the collectiveintentionality of groups has become the focus of important scholarship across the humanities and social sciences. But this literature will not sit easily with mainstream International Relations for two reasons. First, contemporary theories of collectiveintentionality are difficult to square with (...) the idea that the personified state is an intentional agent, with first-person plural self-awareness and moral obligations. However, by contrast, the same theories make it eminently plausible for all sorts of other groups to be intentional, agential, moral persons and can tell us how states are constructed. In short, this set of theories radically pluralises and transforms standard political ontology while also accounting for common misperceptions. I push these insights further to argue that radical plural... (shrink)
This paper introduces the concept of collectiveintentionality and shows its relevance when we seek to understand public management. Social ontology – particularly its leading concept, collectiveintentionality – provides critical insights into public organisations. The paper sets out the some of the epistemological limitations of cultural theories and takes as its example of these the group-grid theory of Douglas and Hood. It then draws upon Brentano, Husserl and Searle to show the ontological character of public (...) management. Modern public institutions – such as advisory organisations and service delivery agencies, including schools and universities – are expressions of human collectiveintentionality. The central concept within these institutions, as a phenomenology reveals, is cooperation. Public institutions are natural structures that emerge from our evolutionary ancestry as cooperative animals and enduringly display all the features of that ancestry. (shrink)
This paper offers a critical discussion of Searle's account of collectiveintentionality. It argues Bratman's alternative account avoids some of the shortcomings of Searle's account, over-intellectualizes collectiveintentionality and imposes an excessive cognitive burden on participating agents.Tthe capacities needed to sustain collectiveintentionality are examined in an attempt to show that we can preserve the gist of Bratman's account in a cognitively more parsimonious way.
This paper argues that collectiveintentionality analysis provides a theoretical framework, complementary to traditional instrumental rationality analysis, that allows us to explain economic behavior as ‘complex.’ Economic behavior may be regarded as complex if it cannot be reduced to a single explanatory framework. Contemporary mainstream economics, in its reliance on instrumental rationality as the exclusive basis for explaining economic behavior, does not offer an account of economic behavior as complex. Coupling collectiveintentionality analysis with instrumental rationality (...) analysis, however, makes such an account possible, since collectiveintentionality analysis arguably presupposes a distinct form of rationality, here labeled a deontological or principle-based rationality. (shrink)
In this paper I will discuss a certain philosophical and conceptual program -- that I have called philosophy of social action writ large -- and also show in detail how parts of the program have been, and is currently being carried out. In current philosophical research the philosophy of social action can be understood in a broad sense to encompass such central research topics as action occurring in a social context (this includes multi-agent action); shared we-attitudes (such as we-intention, mutual (...) belief) and other social attitudes expressing collectiveintentionality and needed for the explication and explanation of social action; social macro-notions, such as actions performed by social groups and properties of social groups such as their goals and beliefs; social practices, and institutions (see e.g. Tuomela, 1995, 2000a, 2001). The theory of social action understood analogously in a broad sense would then involve not only philosophical but all other relevant theorizing about social action. Thus, in this sense, such fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as Distributed AI (DAI) and the theory of Multi-Agent Systems (MAS) fall within the scope of the theory of social action. DAI studies the social side of computer systems and includes various well-known areas ranging from human-computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, organizational processing, and distributed problem solving to the simulation of social systems. (shrink)
This article aims to contribute to a critical ontology of social objects. Recent works on collectiveintentionality and norm-following neglect the question how free agents can be brought to collectively intend to x , although x is not in their own interest. By arguing for a natural disposition to empathic understanding and drawing on recent research in the neurosciences, this article outlines an ontological framework that extends collectiveintentionality to questions of oppression and status asymmetries. In (...) a contribution to this journal, Wisnewski (2005) unfortunately mischaracterizes the problem of meaning in social criticism. Implementing status problems in studies of collective intentions and construing social facts as both subjective and objective in character helps explain why agents can have persistent "misunderstandings" of social objects. (shrink)
Abstract: Focusing on early child pretend play from the perspective of developmental psychology, this article puts forward and presents evidence for two claims. First, such play constitutes an area of remarkable individual intentionality of second-order intentionality (or 'theory of mind'): in pretence with others, young children grasp the basic intentional structure of pretending as a non-serious fictional form of action. Second, early social pretend play embodies shared or collective we-intentionality. Pretending with others is one of the (...) ontogenetically primary instances of truly cooperative actions. And it is a, perhaps the, primordial form of cooperative action with rudimentary rule-governed, institutional structure: in joint pretence games, children are aware that objects collectively get assigned fictional status, 'count as' something, and that this creates a normative space of warranted moves in the game. Developmentally, pretend play might even be a cradle for institutional phenomena more generally. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss the problem of the neural conditions of shared attitudes and intentions: which neural mechanisms underlie “we-mode” processes or serve as precursors to such processes? Neurophysiological and neuropsychological evidence suggests that in different areas of the brain neural representations are shared by several individuals. This situation, on the one hand, creates a potential problem for correct attribution. On the other hand, it may provide the conditions for shared attitudes and intentions.
In everyday discourse and in the context of social scientific research we often attribute intentional states to groups. Contemporary approaches to group intentionality have either dismissed these attributions as metaphorical or provided an analysis of our attributions in terms of the intentional states of individuals in the group.Insection1, the author argues that these approaches are problematic. In sections 2 and 3, the author defends the view that certain groups are literally intentional agents. In section 4, the author argues that (...) there are significant reasons for social scientists and philosophers of social science to acknowledge the adequacy of macro-level explanations that involve the attribution of intentional states to groups. In section 5, the author considers and responds to some criticisms of the thesis she defends. (shrink)
Different versions of the idea that individualism about agency is the root of standard game theoretical puzzles have been defended by Regan 1980, Bacharach, Hurley, Sugden :165–181, 2003), and Tuomela 2013, among others. While collectivistic game theorists like Michael Bacharach provide formal frameworks designed to avert some of the standard dilemmas, philosophers of collective action like Raimo Tuomela aim at substantive accounts of collective action that may explain how agents overcoming such social dilemmas would be motivated. This paper (...) focuses on the conditions on collective action and intention that need to be fulfilled for Bacharach’s “team reasoning” to occur. Two influential approaches to collective action are related to the idea of team reasoning: Michael Bratman’s theory of shared intention and Raimo Tuomela’s theory of a we-mode of intending. I argue that neither captures the “agency transformation” that team reasoning requires. That might be an acceptable conclusion for Bratman but more problematic for Tuomela, who claims that Bacharach’s results support his theory. I sketch an alternative framework in which the perspectival element that is required for team reasoning - the ‘we-perspective’ - can be understood and functionally characterized in relation to the traditional distinction between mode and content of intentional states. I claim that the latter understanding of a collective perspective provides the right kind of philosophical background for team reasoning, and I discuss some implications in relation to Tuomela’s assumption that switching between individual and collective perspectives can be a matter of rational choice. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars read and annotated Celestine Bouglé’s Evolution of Values, translated by his mother with an introduction by his father. The book expounded Émile Durkheim's account of morality and elaborated his account of origins of value in collective social life. Sellars replaced elements of this account in constructing his own conception of the relationship between the normative and community, but preserved a central one: the idea that conflicting collective and individual intentions could be found in the same person. (...) These notoriously opaque arguments, which seek to save an element of rationalism from social explanation while granting the claims of behavioural science, are illuminated by comparing them to their original Durkheimian form. (shrink)
Bryce Huebner’s Macrocognition is a book with a double mission. The first and main mission is “to show that there are cases of collective mentality in our world” . Cases of collective mentality are cases where groups, teams, mobs, firms, colonies or some other collectivities possess cognitive capacities or mental states in the same sense that we individually do. To accomplish this mission, Huebner develops an account of macrocognition, where “the term ‘macrocognition’ is intended as shorthand for the (...) claim that system-level cognition is implemented by an integrated network of specialized computational mechanisms” .The second mission of Huebner’s book is to elaborate an account of cognitive architecture that could set the groundwork for identifying under what conditions groups, and individuals indeed, are fruitfully and justifiably said to be minded. To this end, Huebner tackles several foundational issues in cognitive science, including traditional philosophical questions a .. (shrink)
Orr and Siegler have recently defended a restrictive view concerning posthumous sperm retrieval and conception, which would limit insemination to those cases where the deceased man has provided explicit consent for such a procedure. The restrictive view dominates current law and practice. A permissible view, in contrast, would allow insemination and conception in all but those cases where the posthumous procedure has been explicitly refused, or where there is no reasonable evidence that the deceased person desired children. I describe a (...) phenomenology of procreative desires which supports the permissible view, and which is compatible with requirements concerning the interests of the decedent, concepts of medical infertility, and the welfare of the future child. The account illustrates how our current obsession with individual rights and autonomy can be self-defeating and repressive. (shrink)