[SydPhil] John Mathewson: Group Agents (Current Project)

Kristie Miller kristie_miller at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 13 07:30:48 AEST 2013

Dear all, 

This coming Monday, John Mathewson will talk to us about:

Group agents and the use of idealised models in philosophy
Group agents are agents composed of parts that are themselves agents. In the book Group Agency, Christian List and Philip Pettit argue that such group agents ought to be included in the ontology of the social sciences. For example, they claim we can talk about the beliefs, preferences and even blameworthiness of entities such as corporations (as opposed to just the members of those corporations), where this talk is at least sometimes literally true. List and Pettit also consider ways in which groupagents should be structured in order to meet particular norms of agency, and the significance of these agents in our social and political environment.
I think there is a certain amount of tension between the methodology employed in Group Agency and its purported findings. Many of the arguments presented in the book involve formal treatments of highly idealised and abstract scenarios, the results of which are intended to secure claims regarding actual group agents. The use of such abstract scenarios is a well-established and effective research method in both philosophy and science, but complexities do arise when we use this research to support claims about the real world. I will examine the extent to which these complexities might cause trouble for two of List and Pettit’s claims, emphasising the importance of how their models generalise across actual and possible cases. The hope is to use these examples tomotivate some general heuristics regarding the use of idealised scenarios in philosophy.

As usual, papers are at 1.00 in the philosophy common room.

Dr. Kristie Miller
University of Sydney 
Senior Research Fellow
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and
The Centre for Time
The University of Sydney
Sydney Australia
Room 407, A 14

kmiller at usyd.edu.au
kristie_miller at yahoo.com
Ph: +612 9036 9663

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