Are companies, churches, and states genuine agents? Or are they just collections of individuals that give a misleading impression of unity? This question is important, since the answer dictates how we should explain the behaviour of these entities and whether we should treat them as responsible and accountable on the model of individual agents. Group Agency offers a new approach to that question and is relevant, therefore, to a range of fields from philosophy to law, politics, and the social sciences. (...) Christian List and Philip Pettit argue that there really are group or corporate agents, over and above the individual agents who compose them, and that a proper approach to the social sciences, law, morality, and politics must take account of this fact. Unlike some earlier defences of group agency, their account is entirely unmysterious in character and, despite not being technically difficult, is grounded in cutting-edge work in social choice theory, economics, and philosophy. (shrink)
This is the first full-length presentation of a republican alternative to the liberal and communitarian theories that have dominated political philosophy in recent years. The latest addition to the acclaimed Oxford Political Theory series, Pettit's eloquent and compelling account opens with an examination of the traditional republican conception of freedom as non-domination, contrasting this with established negative and positive views of liberty. The first part of the book traces the rise and decline of this conception, displays its many attractions, and (...) makes a case for why it should still be regarded as a central political ideal. The second part of the book looks at what the implementation of the ideal would imply for substantive policy-making, constitutional and democratic design, regulatory control and the relation between state and civil society. Prominent in this account is a novel concept of democracy, under which government is exposed to systematic contestation, and a vision of relations between state and society founded upon civility and trust. Pettit's powerful and insightful new work offers not only a unified, theoretical overview of the many strands of republican ideas, but also a new and sophisticated perspective on studies in related fields including the history of ideas, jurisprudence, and criminology. (shrink)
The Herald of Free Enterprise, a ferry operating in the English Channel, sank on March 6, 1987, drowning nearly two hundred people. The official inquiry found that the company running the ferry was extremely sloppy, with poor routines of checking and management. “From top to bottom the body corporate was infected with the disease of sloppiness.”1 But the courts did not penalize anyone in what might seem to be an appropriate measure, failing to identify individuals in the company or on (...) the ship itself who were seriously enough at fault. As one commentator put it, “The primary requirement of finding an individual who was liable . . . stood in the way of attaching any significance to the organizational sloppiness that had been found by the official inquiry.”2 In a case like this it can make good sense to hold that while the individuals involved may not bear a high degree of personal responsibility, together as a corporate enterprise they should carry full responsibility for what occurred. Although the members may not fully satisfy the conditions for being held personally responsible—although there are mitigating circumstances that excuse them in some mea-. (shrink)
Suppose that the members of a group each hold a rational set of judgments on some interconnected questions, and imagine that the group itself has to form a collective, rational set of judgments on those questions. How should it go about dealing with this task? We argue that the question raised is subject to a difficulty that has recently been noticed in discussion of the doctrinal paradox in jurisprudence. And we show that there is a general impossibility theorem that that (...) difficulty illustrates. Our paper describes this impossibility result and provides an exploration of its significance. The result naturally invites comparison with Kenneth Arrow's famous theorem (Arrow, 1963 and 1984; Sen, 1970) and we elaborate that comparison in a companion paper (List and Pettit, 2002). The paper is in four sections. The first section documents the need for various groups to aggregate its members' judgments; the second presents the discursive paradox; the third gives an informal statement of the more general impossibility result; the formal proof is presented in an appendix. The fourth section, finally, discusses some escape routes from that impossibility. (shrink)
This innovative approach to freedom starts from an account of what we mean by describing someone, in a psychological vein, as a free subject. Pettit develops an argument as to what it is that makes someone free in that basic sense; and then goes on to derive the implications of the approach for issues of freedom in political theory. Freedom in the subject is equated with the person's being fit to be held responsible and to be authorized as a partner (...) in interaction. This book is unique among contemporary approaches - although it is true to the spirit of classical writers like Hobbes and Kant - in seeking a theory that applies to psychological issues of free agency and free will as well as to political issues in the theory of the free state and the free constitution. The driving thesis is that it is only by connecting up the different issues of freedom, psychological and political, that we can fully appreciate the nature of the questions involved, and the requirements for their resolution. The book does not not seek a comprehensive reach just for its own sake, but rather for the sake of the illumination it provides._ _ _A Theory of Freedom_ is a ground-breaking volume which will be of wide interest to scholars and students in political philosophy and political science. (shrink)
According to republican theory, we are free persons to the extent that we are protected and secured in the same fundamental choices, on the same public basis, as one another. But there is no public protection or security without a coercive state. Does this mean that any freedom we enjoy is a superficial good that presupposes a deeper, political form of subjection? Philip Pettit addresses this crucial question in On the People's Terms. He argues that state coercion will not involve (...) individual subjection or domination insofar as we enjoy an equally shared form of control over those in power. This claim may seem utopian but it is supported by a realistic model of the institutions that might establish such democratic control. Beginning with a fresh articulation of republican ideas, Pettit develops a highly original account of the rationale of democracy, breathing new life into democratic theory. (shrink)
Freedom, in Philip Pettit's provocative analysis, "requires more than just being left alone." In Just Freedom, a succint articulation of the republican philosophy for which he is renowned, Pettit builds a theory of universal freedom as nondenomination. Seen through this lens, even societies that consider themselves free may find their political arrangements lacking. Do those arrangements protect people's liberties equally? Are they subject to the equally shared control of those they protect? Do they allow the different peoples of the world (...) to live in equal freedom? With elegant, user-friendly tests of freedom---the eyeball test, the tough luck test, and the straight talk test---Pettit addresses these questions, laying out essential yardsticks for policymakers and concerned ciitzens alike. An invitation to join in a program that would better articulate and realize justice in our social, democratic, and international lives. Just Freedom offers readers an essential starting place for the world's thorniest problems. (shrink)
University of Cologne, Germany Joint action and group agency have emerged as focuses of attention in recent social theory and philosophy but they have rarely been connected with one another. The argument of this article is that whereas joint action involves people acting together to achieve any sort of result, group agency requires them to act together for the achievement of one result in particular: the construction of a centre of attitude and agency that satisfies the usual constraints of consistency (...) and rationality in adequate measure. The main discovery in the recent theory of group agency is that this result is not easily achieved; no regular voting procedure will ensure, for example, that a group of individually consistent agents will display consistency in group judgments. Key Words: groups group agents collective agents joint action joint intention. (shrink)
Some properties are causally relevant for a certain effect, others are not. In this paper we describe a problem for our understanding of this notion and then offer a solution in terms of the notion of a program explanation.
The long republican tradition is characterized by a conception of freedom as non‐domination, which offers an alternative, both to the negative view of freedom as non‐interference and to the positive view of freedom as self‐mastery. The first part of the book traces the rise and decline of the conception, displays its many attractions and makes a case for why it should still be regarded as a central political ideal. The second part of the book looks at the sorts of political (...) and civil institutions that would be required in a society in which freedom as non‐domination is systematically fostered. It outlines the causes and policies, the constitutional and democratic forms, and the regulatory controls that a republican state ought to endorse. And it argues for a vision of the state's relation to civil society in which there is no pretence of doing without widespread civility and trust; the argument is that the state ought, at once, to foster and build on such extra‐political foundations. (shrink)
What makes human beings intentional and thinking subjects? How does their intentionality and thought connect with their social nature and their communal experience? How do the answers to these questions shape the assumptions which it is legitimate to make in social explanation and political evaluation? These are the broad-ranging issues which Pettit addresses in this novel study. The Common Mind argues for an original way of marking off thinking subjects, in particular human beings, from other intentional systems, natural and artificial. (...) It holds by the holistic view that human thought requires communal resources while denying that this social connection compromises the autonomy of individuals. And, in developing the significance of this view of social subjects--this holistic individualism--it outlines a novel framework for social and political theory. Within this framework, social theory is allowed to follow any of a number of paths: space is found for intentional interpretation and decision-theoretic reconstruction, for structural explanation and rational choice derivation. But political theory is treated less ecumenically. The framework raises serious questions about contractarian and atomistic modes of thought and it points the way to a republican rethinking of liberal commitments. (shrink)
In Hobbes, freedom of choice requires nonfrustration: the option you prefer must be accessible. In Berlin, it requires noninterference: every option, preferred or unpreferred, must be accessible—every door must be open. But Berlin’s argument against Hobbes suggests a parallel argument that freedom requires something stronger still: that each option be accessible and that no one have the power to block access; the doors should be open, and there should be no powerful doorkeepers. This is freedom as nondomination. The claim is (...) that freedom as noninterference is an unstable alternative between freedom as nonfrustration and freedom as nondomination. (shrink)
The ``doctrinal paradox'' or ``discursive dilemma'' shows that propositionwise majority voting over the judgments held by multiple individuals on some interconnected propositions can lead to inconsistent collective judgments on these propositions. List and Pettit (2002) have proved that this paradox illustrates a more general impossibility theorem showing that there exists no aggregation procedure that generally produces consistent collective judgments and satisfies certain minimal conditions. Although the paradox and the theorem concern the aggregation of judgments rather than preferences, they invite comparison (...) with two established results on the aggregation of preferences: the Condorcet paradox and Arrow's impossibility theorem. We may ask whether the new impossibility theorem is a special case of Arrow's theorem, or whether there are interesting disanalogies between the two results. In this paper, we compare the two theorems, and show that they are not straightforward corollaries of each other. We further suggest that, while the framework of preference aggregation can be mapped into the framework of judgment aggregation, there exists no obvious reverse mapping. Finally, we address one particular minimal condition that is used in both theorems – an independence condition – and suggest that this condition points towards a unifying property underlying both impossibility results. (shrink)
During the past decade ethical theory has been in a lively state of development, and three basic approaches to ethics - Kantian ethics, consequentialism, and virtue ethics - have assumed positions of particular prominence.
Assuming that states will remain a permanent feature of our world, what is the ideal that we should hold out for the international order? An attractive proposal is that those peoples that are already organized under non-dominating, representative states should pursue a twin goal: first, arrange things so that they each enjoy the republican ideal of freedom as non-domination in relation to one another and to other multi-national and international agencies; and second, do everything possible and productive to facilitate the (...) representation of less fortunate peoples in non-dominating states and to incorporate them in a non-dominating international order. This republican ideal stands midway between a utopian ideal of cosmopolitan justice and a sceptical ideal of non-intervention. The article explores its attractions and the broad institutional measures that it would support. (shrink)
Taken as a model for how groups should make collective judgments and decisions, the ideal of deliberative democracy is inherently ambiguous. Consider the idealised case where it is agreed on all sides that a certain conclusion should be endorsed if and only if certain premises are admitted. Does deliberative democracy recommend that members of the group debate the premises and then individually vote, in the light of that debate, on whether or not to support the conclusion? Or does it recommend (...) that members individually vote on the premises, and then let their commitment to the conclusion be settled by whether or not the group endorses the required premises? Is deliberative democracy to enforce the discipline of reason at the individual level, as in the first possibility, or at the collective level, as in the second? (shrink)
Many of the things that we try to explain, in both our common sense and our scientific engagement with the world, are capable of being explained more or less finely: that is, with greater or lesser attention to the detail of the producing mechanism. A natural assumption, pervasive if not always explicit, is that other things being equal, the more finegrained an explanation, the better. Thus, Jon Elster, who also thinks there are instrumental reasons for wanting a more fine-grained explanation, (...) assumes that in any case the mere fact of getting nearer the detail of production makes such an explanation intrinsically superior: “a more detailed explanation is also an end in itself” (Elster 1985, p. 5). Michael Taylor (1988, p. 96) agrees: “A good explanation should be, amongst other things, as fine-grained as possible.”. (shrink)
Taken as a model for how groups should make collective judgments and decisions, the ideal of deliberative democracy is inherently ambiguous. Consider the idealised case where it is agreed on all sides that a certain conclusion should be endorsed if and only if certain premises are admitted. Does deliberative democracy recommend that members of the group debate the premises and then individually vote, in the light of that debate, on whether or not to support the conclusion? Or does it recommend (...) that members individually vote on the premises, and then let their commitment to the conclusion be settled by whether or not the group endorses the required premises? Deliberative-democratic theory has not addressed this issue, and this is a problem. The discursive dilemma of my title--a generalisation of the doctrinal paradox from analytical jurisprudence--shows that the procedures distinguished can come apart. Thus deliberative democrats must make up their minds on where they stand in relation to the issue; they cannot sit on the fence. This paper is an attempt to address the issue and look at the grounds on which it may be resolved. (shrink)
It is now widely accepted as an ideal that democracy should be as deliberative as possible. Democracy should not involve a tussle between different interest groups or lobbies in which the numbers matter more than the arguments. And it should not be a system in which the only arguments that matter are those that voters conduct in an attempt to determine where their private or sectional advantage lies. Democracy, it is said, should promote public deliberation among citizens and authorities as (...) to what does best for the society as a whole and should elicit decision-making on that basis. But the ideal of deliberative democracy has two components—the deliberative and the democratic—and often they pull apart. In this paper I look in the ﬁrst section at a series of problems that arise on the deliberative front, arguing that their resolution requires various degrees of depoliticization. And then I ask in the second whether the depoliticizing responses that those problems require are antithetical to the ideal of democracy. I argue that they are not in tension with the ideal, if that ideal is cast in the relatively revisionary, two-dimensional form that I favour. (shrink)
Can groups be rational agents over and above their individual members? We argue that group agents are distinguished by their capacity to mimic the way in which individual agents act and that this capacity must “supervene” on the group members’ contributions. But what is the nature of this supervenience relation? Focusing on group judgments, we argue that, for a group to be rational, its judgment on a particular proposition cannot generally be a function of the members’ individual judgments on that (...) proposition. Rather, it must be a function of their individual sets of judgments across many propositions. So knowing what the group members individually think about some proposition does not generally tell us how the group collectively adjudicates that proposition: the supervenience relation must be “setwise,” not “proposition-wise.” Our account preserves the individualistic view that group agency is nothing mysterious but also suggests that a group agent may hold judgments that are not directly continuous with its members’ corresponding individual judgments. (shrink)
Group agents have been represented as expressive fictions by those who treat ascriptions of agency to groups as metaphorical; as pragmatic fictions by those who think that the agency ascribed to groups belongs in the first place to a distinct individual or set of individuals; and as theoretical fictions by those who think that postulating group agents serves no indispensable role in our theory of the social world. This paper identifies, criticizes and rejects each of these views, defending a strong (...) realist position. (shrink)
Granted that desire is always present in the genesis of human action, is it something on the presence of which the agent always reflects? I may act on a belief without coming to recognize that I have the belief. Can I act on a desire without recognizing that I have the desire? In particular, can the desire have a motivational presence in my decision making, figuring in the background, as it were, without appearing in the content of my deliberation, in (...) the foreground? We argue, perhaps unsurprisingly, that yes, desire can figure in the background without figuring in the foreground: we call this the strict background view of desire. But we then show, and this is where the surprise comes, that the strict background view of desire has significant implications for contemporary moral philosophy. (shrink)
There has recently been a good deal of interest in the republican tradition, particularly in the political conception of freedom maintained within that tradition. I look here at the characterisation of republican liberty in a recent work of Quentin Skinner1and argue on historical and conceptual grounds for a small amendment—a simplification—that would make it equivalent to the view that freedom in political contexts should be identified with nondomination.
Pettit presents a selection of essays touching upon metaphysics, philosophical psychology, and the theory of rational regulation. The first part of the book discusses the rule-following character of thought. The second considers how choice can be responsive to different sorts of factors, while still being under the control of thought. The third examines the implications of this view of choice and rationality for the normative regulation of social behavior.
People ordinarily suppose that there are certain things they ought to believe and certain things they ought not to believe. In supposing this to be so, they make corresponding assumptions about their belief-forming capacities. They assume that they are generally responsive to what they think they ought to believe in the things they actually come to believe. In much the same sense, people ordinarily suppose that there are certain things they ought to desire and do and they make corresponding assumptions (...) about their capacities to form desires and act on them. We chart these assumptions and argue that they entail that people are responsible and free on two fronts: they are free and responsible believers and free and responsible desirers. (shrink)
How sensitive should you be to the testimony of others? You saw the car that caused an accident going through trafﬁc lights on the red; or so you thought. Should you revise your belief on discovering that the majority of bystanders, equally well-equipped, equally well-positioned and equally impartial, reported that it went through on the green? Or take another case. You believe that intelligent design is the best explanation for the order of the living universe. Should you revise that belief (...) on ﬁnding that most other people, or at least most who by your own lights are as intelligent, informed and impartial as yourself, believe that evolutionary theory offers the better account? Should you do this, in particular, if your own personal sense of where the evidence points – like your own vivid memory of the car going through on the red – remains ﬁrmly on the side of intelligent design? Assume, to take a third case, that there is a matter of fact about whether abortion is right or wrong. You believe that it is wrong, having a ﬁrm picture of it as an act on a par with murder. Should you revise that belief on discovering that among those whom you regard as equally intelligent, informed and impartial, most believe that abortion is not wrong, or at least not wrong in the way that murder is wrong? Should you do this, in particular, if your own personal sense of abortion remains unchanged; it still seems to you to be a grievous wrong? Should you put aside your own sense of things as mistaken, in the way you might put aside your imagined memory of the car going through on the red, and decide to go along with the majority view? (shrink)
The paper offers five desiderata on a realist normative theory of politics: that it should avoid moralism, deontologism, transcendentalism, utopianism, and vanguardism. These desiderata argue for a theory that begins from values rooted in a people’s experience; that avoids prescribing a collective deontological constraint; that makes the comparison of imperfect regimes possible; that takes feasibility and sustainability into account; and that makes room for the claims of democracy. The paper argues, in the course of exploring the desiderata, that a neo-republican (...) philosophy of government does pretty well in satisfying them. (shrink)
Expressivists hold that ethical sentences express attitudes. We argue that it is very hard for expressivists to give an account of the relevant sense of 'express' which has some plausibility and also delivers the kind of noncognitivist account of ethical sentences they affirm. Our argument draws on Locke's point that words are voluntary signs.