Part B - Collective Intentionality and Collective Reasons

A Case for Relational Normativity?

In the ongoing debate on collective intentionality no little ink has been spilled over the role of irreducibly shared or collective intentions in providing us with a standard from which we can critically assess and reflect on our individual or subjective intentions (and choices of actions) that we come to have with relation to others. The underlying idea is that irreducibly collective or shared intentions understood as based on some sort of relational normativity or relational normative standard, ultimately produce reasons for action of a distinctive kind, which are not “normatively-individualistic reasons”. However, it is far from clear (1) just what the precise nature of these joint reasons is supposed to be, (2) what it is to come to perceive these reasons as the reasons they are and (3) what the reasons’ relation is to motivation.

With regard to the first question I will critically analyse a number of suggestions found in the literature of analytical moral philosophy and the philosophy of action, ranging from external but not agent-neutral reasons to inter-subjective reasons, the latter of which are thought to be transcending both external and internal reasons. I will also show that answers to this question will have no little impact on the very grounds of some of economics’ most firmly held beliefs about human agency.

The second question will ask for a more markedly phenomenological approach. It bears on the hypothesis that the reasons in question may be connected with certain of the most basic forms of intrinsic human valuing. More precisely, if for instance it turns out (by way of question 1) that shared intentions and goals give rise to what might be best characterised as say, “membership-dependent reasons”, then to value membership just is to perceive oneself as having reasons for action of a special kind. Of course this presupposes that we come to better understand the phenomenon of valuing itself. I further suspect that coming to perceive something as a reason of this kind might be essentially a social process which would seem to support a Parfitian rules-involving sense of normativity. However, I suspect that instead a reasons-involving sense of normativity could actually be reconciled with the idea that to perceive something as a reason is a social process. Moreover, to value something (and especially something that is subject to some sort of relational normativity), I will claim, involves experiencing certain emotions.

As for the third question, I put forward the hypothesis that the reasons in question might be able to motivate without figuring as mere means to others’ intentions and plans. Here it will also be important to clearly distinguish between the reasons’ normative force and reasons’ motivational force (the former already being a topic discussed in questions 1 and 2). My aim in this research project is of an integrative kind. I shall try to show how collective intentionality taken seriously can be made fruitful to gain new insights into some of philosophy’s profoundest if not oldest issues such as the nature of individual and collective reasons, the normative foundations of our society and the phenomenology of motivation.