Part A - Collective Affectivity
"A trouble shared is a trouble halved, a joy shared is a joy doubled."
The notion of sharing emotion is a challenge for theories of collective intentionality that are supposed to be applicable to all kinds of intentional states. By now, theories of collective intentionality mainly target at collective intention and collective belief. Applying them to collective emotional intentionality follows a double goal: On the one hand systematically investigating the meaning of shared emotion ascriptions, on the other hand testing which theories of collective intentionality are generally applicable. That collective emotional intentionality possibly is a touch-stone for a general theory of collective intentionality was already hinted at by John Searle in the introduction of his Intentionality (1983).
Until now, research done on collective emotion is more or less restricted to analyses of collective moral emotions, especially guilt (e.g Margaret Gilbert). In view of sharing social moral emotions such as guilt or regret, I think that a "membership account" of collective intentionality provides the most adequate analysis of it. The "individualist" membership account – rejected by Gilbert in favor of a "collectivist" account of "plural subjecthood" – takes natural individuals as bearers of collective intentional states.
The collective character or "sharedness" of these states is assumed to consist primarily in a particular personal modality of the intentional experience, namely a "we-mode" in which the state's content is assessed (e.g. Raimo Tuomela). This particular we-mode is due to an identification of individuals with a group, resulting in their focus on group-membership rather than on their ego. Whether a representation of the group in the content of the collective intentional state is constitutive for it is a question that can be positively answered in the case of collective guilt feeling. Whether this criterion also applies to other shared emotions is to be examined.
The thesis that intentional states are experienced in different personal modes such as I-mode or we-mode also needs further investigation. My approach assumes a classical "realist" view on intentionality as being the proper of mind. Therefore, it emphasizes the phenomenality of intentional states and tries to accommodate it within the analysis of collective intentionality. While collectivist accounts encounter difficulties in locating the phenomenality of shared intentional states in a "plural subject", individualist membership accounts have the advantage to integrate it more easily. This is particularly salient in the case of shared emotional states.
I presume that a collectivist account of collective intentionality can be justified only on the assumption of a pragmatic view on intentionality. Contrary to the classical mentalist view, such alternative accounts interpret ascriptions of intentionality as merely heuristic tools in explaining and predicting behavior, bare of any ontological commitment. Theories of collective intentionality make not always clear on what basic view on intentionality they are built. A distinction of these basic views, together with their being both applied to ascriptions of shared emotion, could even lead to strengthen the case for one of them as being the better candidate in accounting for intentionality in general.
My research interest further extends to the role of shared emotionality. It seems that influence on the acceptance of common values – including cognitive values – is an important functional feature of what is called "shared emotion". If there is something like socially induced "contagion with truth", it is presumably mediated by shared affectivity.