Abstracts of Participants

A formal approach to the ontology of social beliefs

Gianfranco Basti & Raffaela Giovagnoli

Our contribution aims at providing an account of the ontology of social beliefs in formal terms. We move from the fact that social beliefs are beliefs we can share; the problem is to demonstrate how we can share the intentional content of individual beliefs. 

We’ll show the limits of the traditional theory of equivalence classes, which implies an extensional interpretation of the identity of the content of beliefs expressed in predicates. The substitution of two predicates P and Q in Natural Language (NL) could determine a unique class of equivalence but it does not fully satisfy the intentional content.

We’ll emphasize the necessity of understanding the intentional contents of social beliefs in terms of a particular model of the intensional logic KD45 structure. Namely, the  formal ontology of “conceptual naturalism” that provides the basis from which we can grasp the intentional content of social beliefs in terms of shared attention (i.e., dynamic logic equivalence by shared reference), embodied in the mirror neuron system, recently experimentally registered at level of single neuron activity (and not only of brain imaging) also in the human sensory (and not only motor) cortex.


How sophisticated our interaction can get

Emanuele Bottazzi & Roberta Ferrario

One of the still ill covered topics in collective intentionality is the distinction between a spontaneous, quasi-automatic social interaction (as, for example, walking together while talking),  and a more sophisticated one, based on explicit agreements and shared constructions (e.g., voting). It is very intuitive to say that they have something in common, but at the same time they are quite different. In this paper we want, at least partially, to explain this by showing the importance of critical situations in the passage from spontaneous social interaction to sophisticated social ones.

With “critical situation” we refer to those situations of impasse, when agents are stuck and do not know how to proceed. For example, each agent may be not completely aware of his/her own capabilities, an agent may be mistaken about the mental attitudes of the other agents, one or all the agents may be mistaken about the environmental situation, there may be misunderstandings about the role each agent should play in the interaction...

If we assume that humans are naturally inclined to cooperate, we should deduce that spontaneous interaction is what they engage into by default, on the basis of a sort of “principle of parsimony”. But when things get complicated, like when agents are spatially distant one another, or need to act at different times, or do not know each other, they are forced to create conceptual and linguistic coordination structures.

This means that the social reality we live in is a product of a continuous trial-and-error process: when the situation is too complex, the spontaneously interacting agents are very likely to incur in an impasse and it is exactly in order to avoid or overcome an impasse (actual or just threatened), that the interaction is moved to a higher, more sophisticated, level.


Communicative intentions and mutual responsibilities

Antonella Carassa & Marco Colombetti

 In his recent book, Origins of human communication (p. 214), Michael Tomasello argues that “One important function of the Gricean communicative intention … is that it essentially makes everything public …. This means that the norms apply and cannot be avoided.” While we agree that there is a deep connection between communicative intentions and normativity, the quoted statement misses an important point: in general, norms apply whether or not an action is performed with an overt communicative intention; on the contrary, we submit, communicative intentions are necessary to create normativity. People create normativity (in the form of directed obligations, rights, etc.) in everyday communicative interactions, for example by performing requests, proposals, promises, and agreements. In previous works we have modelled such normativity in terms of joint commitments, which, following Gilbert, we have taken as a primitive concept. To clarify how the creation of normativity is related to communicative intentions, however, we found it crucial to scrutinise the internal structure of joint commitments.

We argue that joint commitments can be analysed in terms of mutual responsibility, defined as a distribution of responsibilities among parties with the features of: reciprocity, in the sense that every party is responsible to all other parties, as long as these recognise themselves as similarly responsible and live up to their responsibilities; and complementarity, in the sense that every party is responsible for their part of an interaction. Next we tackle the issue of how mutual responsibilities can arise, and argue that an action performed by an agent with a communicative intention creates an affordance for the addressee to set up certain mutual responsibilities with the first agent. Finally we put forward some speculations on the ontogeny of mutual responsibilities. Non-normative forms of reciprocity and complementarity respectively appear from the 2nd‒3rd and the 18th‒24th month of age. It is therefore plausible to assume that when children, in their later development, start to form a concept of personal responsibility, they are already endowed with the basic cognitive abilities that are required to participate in mutual responsibilities


Sources and boundaries of institutional and linguistic normativity. Towards a critical social ontology

Francesca Di Lorenzo Ajello

Since Hegel until speech acts theory and contemporary social ontology it came to full development the idea that most of reasons, duties, rights, entitlements, have to do, against Kant, with our participation to a lifeform rather than with our dealing with “substantive moral principles”. But if we accept that most of our individual rational determinations of the will are justified as a part of our Sittlichkheit; that commitments, rights and entitlements are specific to every speech act or  rise from joint commitments and collective imposition of status functions, then the following question arises: If human reason is necessarily embedded in particular lifeforms, how can we be rationally entitled to not accepting what appears to us as unacceptable despite its institutional justifiability?

I will argue that collective recognition makes by itself room for the view that every institutional act, like every speech act, is legitimized only if it is collectively recognized, and is therefore criticizable whereas this legitimacy condition is not satisfied. I propose a deflationary reinterpretation of Kant’s categorical imperative, following Hare and Searle, whereas every reason for action would be constrained by a logical requirement of generalization, which would lead us to be rationally bound to no act against the interests of others. With this rational bound we can articulate a “discourse ethics” including a normative criterion of “justness” among the validity conditions of every action, linguistic or not. Following Rawls, Hare and Austin I argue for the overriding character of this criterion with respect to other normative criteria (such as success, coherence, conformity to status functions and constitutive rules). I conclude with the hypothesis that justness and collective recognition allow to criticize the institutional, deontic power whereas it is not legitimized with respect to these criteria.


Prospects for a (cognitive) science of the we-mode

Mattia Gallotti

Over the last twenty years, the theory of collective intentionality has turned out to be an invaluable tool for exploring a wide range of issues arising from the ontology of social reality. On one way of looking at it, the development of collective intentionality theory has been characterized by discussions concerning what is it that must be ‘shared’ for intentional behavior to be collective. In this paper I shall advocate one ‘classic’ argument in the literature, which identifies the mark of collective mental states in the psychological mode of individual-level representations. For a goal to be shared people have neither to entertain representations with identical (similar) intentional content, nor to access meta-representations of some sort. They just need to represent the relevant goal in the same, intrinsically collective, mode.

In spite of its commonsensical appeal, this view has often been discarded as somewhat mysterious, given the difficulty of its proponents to capture it beyond intuition. To counter these objections, I propose to shift the debate on another level of characterization. Instead of providing a novel conceptual argument which explores the logical conditions for mental states to be held in the we-mode, I address the fundamental problem as one of experimental philosophy. While some philosophers are acquainted with the effort of developmental and comparative scientists to direct scientific attention to the ultimate bases of shared intentionality, few of them are aware of the latest advances made by brain scientists on the proximal bases of the capacity for sharing mental representations. Social cognitive neuroscientists have very recently provided us with pioneering studies which address the problem of the we-mode explicitly, and in a philosophically sensitive manner, while relying on experimental methods to draw conclusions about the alleged causal relations between collective and individual intentionality.

Social frames

Aldo Gangemi

Frames (broadly assumed as conceptual units that underlie human ability to model the world) are widespread in different disciplines (e.g. conceptual frames in linguistics, cognitive schemata in psychology, knowledge patterns in AI, etc.). Rich repositories have been built e.g. in linguistics (FrameNet, VerbNet), but many more are being discovered from the web, specially in knowledge-intensive resources such as Wikipedia.

Based on the working definition of frames as contextual, interactionist (task-oriented) models of human behavioral competence, I will defend the position that frames are a natural component for studying social ontologies, and that the growing availability of open data in uniform formats constitutes an unprecedented opportunity to study them empirically, possibly leading to empirically-driven social ontology research, which I deem now overdue.

I will present some solutions to frame representation within "Constructive Descriptions and Situations" (cDnS), a formal ontology that covers situations, frames, semiotic objects, and collective agents. Examples of how some existing frame repositories have been represented within cDnS will be provided.

I will then present some results (and ideas for future work) of empirical frame discovery from open data. This will be exemplified with respect to WIkipedia page link information (about 115 million links), from which a set of 184 novel frames has been discovered through logical and statistical techniques, and validated with a user study. This experiment fits well the research direction I'm pointing at, since Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced repository of knowledge, with only weak design rules: we have then the possibility of watching "frame emergence", at least in the context of encyclopedic knowledge evolution.

Group goals, game theoretic reasoning and spontaneous collective intentions

Natalie Gold

Cooperation is puzzling for orthodox game theory. Theories of team agency seek to solve such puzzles by extending game theory to allow teams of individuals to count as agents. Then team reasoning, a distinctive mode of reasoning that is used by members of teams, may result in cooperative actions. Natalie Gold and Robert Sugden have argued that the intentions that result from team reasoning are collective intentions. But Raimo Tuomela claims that team reasoning is not applicable to all cooperative contexts because its conception of a goal is not applicable and because the game-theoretic framework is too restrictive. By comparing the concept of a group goal in Bacharach and Sugdenʼs theories of team reasoning, I show that Tuomelaʼs worry about the type of goal that theories of team agency allow is misplaced. Most theories of team agency are not framed in terms of game theory. But by addressing Tuomelaʼs claims about the restrictiveness of the game theoretic framework - explaining how thin the commitments of game theory actually are - I address a further issue: what the theory of team reasoning can say about ʻspontaneousʼ collective intentions. I identify the key features of the account, which are necessary for the production of collective intentions, as the existence of a group goal and a group agent.


Fuzzy groups

Rico Hauswald

Different approaches to social groups differ in how they address the possible fuzziness of groups. While it is a central feature of social network theories to conceive of membership as a matter of degree, social ontological group analyses (e.g., intentionalism) rarely consider the possibility of a group having blurred boundaries. However, I suppose that a great many groups may exhibit some kind of vagueness. Imagine, for example, a couple walking together, while a third person starts to accompany them for a short while. Here, it is not perfectly determinate whether there is now a group of three people, or rather a group of two and, in addition, a third person not belonging to the group.

In my talk, I shall characterize different phenomena of vagueness in social collectives and provide an ontological interpretation of them. Concerning vagueness in general, there is a fundamental distinction between semantic and ontic vagueness. Whereas I subscribe to the currently dominant view, according to which indeterminacy in particulars is (almost always) linguistic in nature, I shall defend the thesis that social groups, although they are particulars as well, are special insofar as the vagueness they may exhibit is ontic vagueness. If groups are, as Simmel famously put it, "objective units", which come into being just by some people's "consciousness of constituting with the others a unity", then there may be cases where this "consciousness" is already indeterminate, where the person himself is not completely sure whether (or to what extent) he belongs to a group. In such cases, the membership actually is, to this extent, indeterminate. So, in the case of groups, vagueness may not only enter into our linguistic descriptions of the group, but already into its constitution.


Unintended collective action and collective responsibility

Frank Hindriks

Almost all existing accounts of collective action – including those of Bratman, Gilbert, Searle, and Tuomela – concern intended collective action. There is ample reason to believe, however, that some collective actions are unintended. Just as an individual, a group of people can, for instance, end up doing something else when it fails to execute its intention as planned. I start by criticizing Sara Chant’s (2006) account of collective action, which concerns both intended and unintended collective action. She argues against the idea that all collective actions follow from intended collective actions. I defend (a version of) this idea, and go on to develop an account of unintended collective actions that is consistent with it. I argue that, in addition to collective unintentional actions, there are unintended collective actions that are performed intentionally. Making these distinctions is interesting as such, but it is also important for the attribution of collective responsibility.


Collective acceptance and two directions of fit

Arto Laitinen

This paper argues that the kind of collective acceptance that is necessary for the existence of institutional reality, is not something that has both directions of fit. The paper will not cast doubt on the idea that institutional reality has a peculiar ontology in depending on collective acceptance: squirrel pelt is indeed money iff it is collectively accepted as money.  Collective acceptance in this sense resembles declarations, and God’s powers to create light by merely representing it as existing (Searle). For the purposes of this paper, they are all fine ideas (except God’s creation of light perhaps), but they should not be cashed out in terms of a bad idea (which the paper claims that the idea of anything having two directions of fit is).

Smith (1987) showed that on the dispositional understanding, nothing can have both directions of fit, concerning the same propositional content. This has been accepted in the debates on moral motivation with two qualifications: that perhaps a normative understanding is to be preferred, and that a state can have both directions of fit as long as these concern different contents.

In the theories of institutional reality, the idea that the constitutive attitudes of “collective acceptance” have both directions of fit concerning the same propositional content is alive and kicking. This paper argues that Smith’s argument holds here as well: on a dispositional understanding nothing can have both directions of fit (concerning the same content). Importantly, the paper shows that on a normative understanding the idea is peculiarly catastrophic. The paper also briefly examines whether some third way of understanding the distinction could work and shows that it is very unlikely. Thus the idea that collective acceptance, or anything else, would have both directions of fit, should simply be dropped.


Social beliefs, social viability, substitutable activities and collective intentionality

Pierre Livet & Frederic Nef

Are common beliefs sufficient for a social entity to come into existence (Searle)? No. Money, for example, implies in addition several possible substitutions between practices:  substitution to direct exchanges of a complex of exchanges with past partners in order to use the result for profitable exchanges with another possible present and future partners; definition of the ratio of the first exchanges to the second ones; substitution of various inscriptions of these ratios to direct contacts, etc. 

A new social entity 1) has to be grafted on the network of previous social practices without undermining the viability of the social network (2) It can be substituted in some cases for another previous activity, necessary to the network 3) The network of beliefs about these new social entities that ensures collective intentionality presents this structure of substitutability (conditions 1 and 2).  In the network of individual beliefs about the new entities, when one shifts from an individual perspective to another one, individual beliefs can be substituted to other ones in a way compatible with the functioning of the new substituted practice. Individual perspectives include anonymous ones, provided individuals have the shared belief that when included, the social functioning is kept on or a new coordination can be triggered.

Ontologically, the viability domain of the social network consists in a network of possible worlds, all linked by conditionally necessary relations: conditional to the required substitutions of activities.  This set of “viable” worlds gives also possible access to other worlds, with other substitutive activities and new social networks- and so on and so forth. Social beliefs have to share common contents concerning the viability domain and imply possible second order beliefs about the possibility of substituting other relations and perspectives, on the condition that these substitutions are still related to the previous network.

A game-theoretic analysis of social commitment

Emiliano Lorini & Mario Verdicchio

The aim of this work is to provide a theory of social commitment which can be formalized with the tools of interactive epistemology, i.e. the domain of game theory initiated by the economist Robert Aumann, whose aim is the study of strategic situations in which agents decide what do according to some general principle of rationality while being uncertain about several aspects of the interaction such other agents’ choices, other agents’ preferences, etc. 

We conceive social commitment as a three-party social relationship between a debtor and a creditor in front of a set of witnesses. Our definition of social commitment employs four basic concepts of action, belief, reason, and common ground. Common ground is the concept widely studied in linguistic as the mass of information and facts which are public for a given set of agents. We here follow the approach of Stalnaker, Clark and others who define common ground as a form of mutual belief: a given proposition p is in the common ground of a set of agents C if and only if, the agents in C mutually believe that p is true. The notion of belief we assume is the standard one à la Hintikka interpreted through a possible-world semantics: a given agent believes that a certain proposition p is true if and only if, p is true in all worlds that the agent considers possible. The concept of reason deserves some comments. We say that the belief that p gives agent i a reason to perform the action A if and only if:

  • the agent i believes that p is true;
  • the agent i intends to perform the action A;
  • if the agent i did not believe that p, then he would not have intended to perform action A.

In other words, the belief that p is reason for the agent i to perform the action A, if it “motivates” the agent i to perform the action A.

We say that the agent i is committed to the agent j to perform the action A in front of the set of witnesses C - where C necessarily includes i and j - if and only if it is in the common ground of the agents in C that:

  •  i created in j the belief that i will perform the action A;
  •  i’s belief that j will perform action A gives j a reason to perform a given action B;
  •  if i does not perform the action A while j performs the action B, then j will suffer a significant loss that j could have avoided if he had done something different from B.


Human infants' representations of social dominance: evidence for an early developing naïve sociology?

Olivier Mascaro & Gergely Csibra

This research uncovers part of the content and representational format of human infants’ intuitive notion of social dominance. We defined dominance as the capacity to prevail when agents have conflicting goals, and tested infants with violation-of-expectation paradigms. During familiarisation trials, infants observed a “dominant” agent succeeding when its goals conflicted with those of another agent. During test trials, we recorded infants’ looking time when the dominant agent either succeeded again or deferred in a new conflict situation.

Twelve-month-olds (but not 9-month-olds) expect the hierarchical relationship between two individuals to remain stable from one conflict (competition for a ball), to another, similar type of conflict (competition for a cube). Fifteen-month-olds (but not 12-month-olds), extend their expectations across completely different conflict situations (from a competition to occupy a place to a competition for a cube). Subsequently, part of the content of infants’ representation of dominance relationships is that they are stable, and that dominant individuals prevail when their goals conflict with those of their subordinates.


Twelve- and fifteen-month-olds do not extend their expectations of dominance to unobserved relationships. Moreover, after observing ‘A’ being dominant over ‘B’, and ‘B’ being dominant over ‘C’, 15-month-olds expect these two relationships to remain stable. But they do not infer that ‘A’ is dominant over ‘C’, hence do not expect dominance relationships to be always transitive, contrary to what would happen if infants represented dominance as an individual property organised on an ordered scale. Thus infants represent dominance as a social relationship between agents.


The conceptual nature, the content, and the representational format of human infants’ representations of social dominance suggest that they are part of an early developing naive sociology that may be underpinned by dedicated cognitive mechanisms.


Perspective-taking precedes an understanding of perspectives as perspectives

Henrike Moll

Evidence is converging that infants and young children skillfully take the perspectives of other people in various contexts and domains. For example, by the age of 18 months, infants can determine the goal of another person’s action even when the person’s activity is misguided by a false belief (Buttelmann, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2009). In the domain of perception, young preschoolers can determine the referent of another’s request for, e.g., a ‘green’ object, even though the children themselves see the object in a different color (Moll & Meltzoff, 2011). This shows that perspectival differences between self and other are successfully bridged—allowing for smooth interactions and mutual understanding within simple cooperative activities. However, if a discursive scenario is constructed in which the child is ‘forced’ to declaratively judge in which location a misinformed agent takes an object to be or in which color a person sees a given thing (when it differs from the color in which the child sees it), children younger than 4 to 5 years mostly err. In my paper, I therefore argue that children come to take others’ perspectives before they acknowledge perspectival differences and thus understand perspectives as perspectives. Because most kinds of social interaction, including joint action and cooperation, require only perspective-taking in young childhood, it may often go unnoticed in everyday life that an understanding of perspectives as perspectives is not yet in place.

Harmless Disagreement: How To Do Without Collective Representations

Olivier Morin

Whenever two individuals possess slightly different representations, they may try to use this representation to coordinate or communicate, and fail. Words carrying different meanings for different communicators may occasion misunderstandings. Agents acting upon discrepant interpretations of a rule may fail to behave as they are expected to. This seems naturally to suggest that efficient coordination and communication require individuals to participate in a single coherent collective intention, identical in everyone. That collective intention would also need to create objective social facts (like the rights of persons or the meaning of words) that do not depend on the interpretation of any individual’s own interpretation.

Yet we often fall short of these requirements, with no dire consequence. This paper will argue that most mismatches between individual representations do little harm to coordination and communication. Analytic philosophers are familiar with the notion that an infinity of potentially contradictory mental models of a rule are compatible with one single way of behaving. Examples of this fact need not be outlandish; they show how easily coordination and communication can dodge the potentially harmful effects of a lack of consensus. For some speakers of English, the word ‘instep’ refers to the middle section of the foot; for others it refers to the top of that section; others see it as the arch between ankle and toes. In most (but not all) conversations involving that word, this difference makes no difference (Enfield, 2007). That is harmless disagreement.

Two ways of reducing disagreement will be discussed. We may defer to a single authority and give it a monopoly to solve misunderstandings; but, unless the authority descends into the detail of every particular case where a rule is applied or a word is employed, it is bound to left some margin for (mostly harmless) potential disagreement. We may also rely on the test of a multitude of different situations to disclose, as time goes by, even the slightest mismatch between individual representations.

These two solutions have two flaws. First, they rely on everyone sincerely to seek the greatest possible agreement with others on matters of coordination. Yet individuals have all sorts of reasons to preserve or promote disagreement and the opportunities for anipulation it affords. Second, these solutions would work if we had time and cognitive resources in infinite supply. Since we are not as omniscient or as benevolent as angels, we are lucky that our conventions tolerate a great deal of disagreement. This is what allows us to solve unplanned problems in spite of our divergent representations and interests.

The costs of any reduction of disagreement have to be weighed against the marginal benefits of doing so. Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson's Relevance theory of communication argues that communicators should spend just enough energy as to narrow down their interlocutor's meaning to the point where no further benefit can be expected, even if that means leaving many aspects of her message in the haze. In the same spirit, Friedrich Hayek claimed that the great merit of the price system lies in the fact that it allows individuals starkly to disagree on the values of goods and services. Economic agents may still coordinate with others without waiting for a consensus that might never be reached. Robustness to disagreement is a precious property of conventions.

Sintelnet: European Network for Social Intelligence

David Pearce

I will give a short  presentation of SINTELNET, the European Network for Social Intelligence, an FP7 Coordination Action that started recently. The network is open to new members and actively seeks cooperation with other national and international projects and initiatives. The motivation for this project is that traditional distinctions between the natural, the social and the artificial are becoming more and more blurred as radically new forms of Information Technology-enabled social environments are formed. These changes create a need to re-explore basic concepts of Philosophy, Humanities and Social Sciences in light of future IT. The aim of the European Network for Social Intelligence is twofold:
  • To look into those IT-enabled domains as a means for the critical examination of basic concepts from philosophy and social science and,
  • To propose new approaches to understand and develop future IT-enabled social situations, by adapting and applying traditional concepts.

Practice and human form

Nikos Psarros

All variants of Pragmatism share a fundamental problem, namely the fact that their common concept of practice relies on the local and culturally bound value of a given context of actions and not on its universal goodness. However, the very fact of a locally established action context that is of a certain value for its participants cannot justify its universal goodness. This cannot be achieved even if one succeeds in enlarging the group of participants by voluntary joining in such a manner that it factually may encompass the totality of the existing human population, since even a worldwide participation in a context of actions is not immune against the possibility of doing something that is essentially lacking a universal goodness despite the fact that it has a world spanning value.

Additionally, Pragmatism cannot explain nor justify why the results of reflection have universally normative validity. This is so because Pragmatism subordinates Thinking to Acting and regards knowledge as the result of the subsequent reflection upon the perception of the results of actions. The attempt to circumnavigate this obstacle by declaring language as part of every practice establishing thus a relationship of immediateness between language and world and deriving thinking from speaking only shifts the problem to the explanation of the universal validity of linguistic expressions.

There are two reasons for the inability of Pragmatism to overcome these aporias:

  1. Pragmatism as well as the totality of the 20th century Philosophy of Science accepts unconditionally the dogma of the immediate reference of language to the world as it has been proposed explicitly in Wittgenstein’s work.
  2. Pragmatism cannot provide a criterion that is independent from the concept of action for the distinction between such action contexts that constitute a practice and such ones that don’t. The desired criterion of demarcation, however, has to qualify something as a practice (or as a non-practice) independently of the factual success of actions.

My thesis is that this criterion can be obtained only by a form-theoretically founded theory of Goodness, which treats forms as real and not as merely noematically constituted universals and grounds Goodness on the immediate knowledge of the Human Form. Further consequences of such a realist form-theoretical foundation of Goodness are the abandoning of the dogma of the immediate reference of language to the world and of the dogma that Acting is prior to Thinking.


Kinds of institutional concepts

Corrado Roversi

In his recent Making the Social World, of 2010, J. R. Searle distinguishes among three different mechanisms for the creation of institutional phenomena: (a) the imposition of status functions on a single individual, (b) the imposition of status functions on classes of individuals through constitutive rules conceived as “standing” status functions declarations, and (c) the creation of entities with status functions through a declaration made possible by constitutive rules. Hence, despite his new insistence on the concept of status function declaration as inclusive of that of constitutive rules, Searle still maintains (as in The Construction of Social Reality) the idea that the most part of institutional phenomena (at least those traceable to cases (b) and (c)) can be explained by appealing to the collective acceptance of constitutive rules—a conception which we could call the “rule-following view of institutions.” In this paper, I will try to show that even in the traditional example of chess, which is the paradigmatic example of a rule-constituted institutional activity, this rule-following view is partial and must be integrated. The main thesis of this paper is that rule-constituted concepts and phenomena are only one among the several kinds of concepts and phenomena that are linked with an institution. More in particular, I will argue that an explanation of institutions cannot but include, along with rule-constituted institutional concepts, a set of meta-institutional concepts (the expression is taken from D. Miller and here extended). To demonstrate this point, I will take into separate considerations five concepts that are relevant for the game of chess—the concept of “castling”, the concept of “victory,” the concept of “attack,” the concept of “cheating,” the concept of “first-move advantage”—and I will discuss the respective relations that these concepts hold with the system of constitutive rules of chess. This will result in a tentative classification of five kinds of institutional concepts: intra-institutional concepts (which refer to objects, events, facts, roles, acts, or properties and are rule-constituted), goal-oriented meta-institutional concepts (which refer to the objectives or typical results of the institution), mode-oriented meta-institutional concepts (which refer to specific modes of employment of the elements of a given institution in the light of the above-mentioned objective), value-oriented meta-institutional concepts (which refer to fundamental values underlying the institution), and finally para-institutional concepts (which are descriptive of phenomena and regularities peculiar of a given institution). As a final outcome of this discussion, I will show how this classifications between institutional concepts entails that institutions conceived as systems of constitutive rules are better represented not simply as standalone structures of rules but rather as structures nested within the context of a broader social practice. 


The rational appropriateness of collective emotions

Mikko Salmela

Recent research has suggested that collective emotions have several functions in social groups. This indicates that collective emotions can be evaluated for their adaptiveness in relation to these functions. However, it is less clear how we should evaluate the rational appropriateness of collective emotions. Intuitively, a collective emotion is rationally appropriate if the actual object of emotion corresponds with the formal object of the emotion type from the group’s point of view. For instance, collective anger is appropriate if the object of emotion is offensive from the group’s point of view. The problem is how to flesh out “the group’s point of view”.  Empirically, mere sharing with mutual awareness gives the shared emotion an aura of objectivity, but this experience is hardly sufficient neither necessary for the rational appropriateness of emotion. A better proposal suggests that a collective emotion is rationally appropriate if it is felt for a group reason that is grounded in an internally coherent group ethos –certain constitutive concerns, goals, values, beliefs, or norms of the group. However, this criterion is only necessary but not sufficient, because an ethos or its aspects may have been adopted or maintained irrationally. Therefore, we must also require that the group ethos is not adopted or maintained by ignoring counterevidence that is available to the group members. The rub of this proposal is how to interpret “available evidence”. It is impossible to give an exact definition of “available evidence”, but I consider a few kinds of limitations –historical, cultural, social, psychological, and normative– that may keep evidence unavailable to groups. I also suggest that the evidence available to a group is the totality of evidence that is available to individual group members. In conclusion, I observe that many actual collective emotions fail to qualify as rationally appropriate on the proposed standards.


Mode as representational: from we-mode to role-mode

Michael Schmitz

In the contribution the traditional view of intentional attitudes, which equates their representational content with their so-called propositional content, is rejected in favor of an account that treats both subject-mode (e.g. I-mode vs. we-mode) and attitude-mode (e.g. intention vs. belief) as representational. On this account, subjects do not represent states of affairs from nowhere, as it where, but always also represent, though usually in a backgrounded fashion, their individual or collective position with regard to these states of affairs. It is shown that this view can best account for the peculiar representational failure that occurs when an individual has an illusory we-intention and for several other puzzles about we-mode intentionality. For example, we can reconcile the fact that there exists a relation between individual members of a collective in cases of successful we-mode representation with the fact that the existence of this relation is entirely dependent on the representational contents in the heads of these individuals. The account also takes the sting out of the notion that there is a group as a logical subject. Once we have got conceptually irreducible we-mode representation, it is argued, there is a sense in which the group is ontologically free, because just like an ‘I’ is no more than a being that is capable of representing itself in a certain way, so a ‘we’ is also no more than an entity – a group – that is capable of representing itself in a certain way. Moreover, the representationalist account of mode also helps us understand collective deductive reasoning. The account of we-mode intentionality and reasoning is then extended to understand role-mode as another form of subject-mode – the mode(s) representing certain positions of groups or individuals within institutions such as being a committee or a policeman. It is shown that role-mode can be understood as representational in essentially the same fashion as we-mode. The contribution concludes with some reflections on the relation between we-mode and role-mode and different layers of collective intentionality and different representational formats on these layers.

Defining collective omissions

David Schweikard

With a few exceptions, philosophers of collective action have paid relatively little attention to phenomena of collective inaction or omission. Even the literature on collective responsibility features negative acts at best marginally, where the contributions by Virginia Held, Larry May, David Copp, Seumas Miller and Björn Petersson stand out. However, there is pressure on philosophers of collective action to account for cases of collective failure to render assistance, of intentional collective omissions and joint inaction, since they are accorded considerable weight in assessing the normative dimension of collective action.

I first turn to individual omission. As I conceive it, the task here is to say exactly what constitutes a situation in which an agent could but does not provide assistance to an accident victim. This involves clarifying the concepts of a possibility of action, an opportunity for action, the agent’s knowledge of this opportunity and his decision. The point of my account is that we should count as omissions not only those cases in which an agent decides not to perform a certain action, but also cases in which an agent could but does not know that he is in a position to perform a certain action.

In a second step, I deploy variations of a case in which four hikers could but do not help an accident victim buried by a number of heavy rocks that can only be moved with an effort by all four. Assuming that there is an opportunity for joint action, its realization would require (i) that the hikers have appropriate individual and common knowledge, (ii) that they coordinate to act jointly, and (iii) that they decide to act jointly. A collective omission can then consist in not establishing appropriate common knowledge, in not coordinating accordingly, or in deciding against the joint action for which there is an opportunity.

Emergence of we-intentionality: commitment or belonging?

Guido Seddone

We-intentionality is often claimed to be a type of individual intentionality that develop sociality. For Searle (Searle 2010) it is an extended faculty for producing and recognising social objects. This approach is convincing but also limited, because it does not explain the origins of we-intentionality without making recourse to language and creating also a regressum ad infinitum, because languagetoo is learned in a social dimension.

From a psychological perspective, joint attention is an elementary form of cognition and cooperation in children, from which language arises as symbolisation of practices (Tomasello 1999 and 2009). Hence from a philosophical perspective, the issue should concern the emergence of we-intentionality beyond the theory of SFD. We-intentionality emerges as a result of complex events of integration in social practices by which human beings come to understand the connection between linguistic symbols and intentional states of other individuals (Tomasello 2009). The theory of “Documentality” (Ferraris 2009) is an attempt to trace back we-intentionality to an original fixation by symbols and documents. This theory clarifies partially the phenomenon of belonging, but unfortunately it does not explain the nexus between documents and the cognitive capacity to understand them as shared objects. The theories on commitment (Tuomela 2005) have the merit of clarifying the development of a we-authority by individual commitment and parcelling the tasks between members, but they produce also a burdensome circular question about the credibility of each member in the accomplishment of their tasks and commitments (Schmid 2005).

For these reasons I will propose to treat we-intentionality as the outcome of an irreducible belonging to a group and I will discuss the different approaches to social ontology in order to elucidate the event of integration from which social behaviours arise.


Doing to, doing with and the semantics of ‘ought’

Thomas H. Smith

The Meinong-Chisholm thesis (MCT) states that these are equivalent:

(A) a ought to φ.

(B) It ought to be the case that a φs.

Harman’s argument against (MCT) is that the normative claim that, say, I ought to turn the trolley (thereby killing one and saving five) is distinct from the evaluative claim that it ought to be the case that I turn it. One could disbelieve the former thought (on the grounds that killing is always wrong) and believe the latter (on grounds of utility).

This argument is too quick. Granted, (A) is normative in that it entails that:

(R) There is reason for a’s φ-ing.

But (B) is plausibly read as having the same entailment. Perhaps (B) also has an evaluative reading, on which it means, roughly it would be good were a to φ, or would that a φ-ed. But this is not the reading that defenders of (MCT) should have had in mind.

Now, it might be held that (A), unlike (B) entails, not only (R), but also:

(R+) a has reason to φ.

But it is unclear whether (R+) adds anything to (R), i.e. that there is anything more to the having of a reason to φ than there being reason for one’s φ-ing.

Geach has a different argument. Premise 1 is that these are inequivalent:

(i) Tom ought to be beaten up by John

(ii) John ought to beat up Tom

 Premise 2 is that these are equivalent

(iii) It ought to be the case that Tom is beaten up by John

(iv) It ought to be the case that John beats up Tom.

It follows contra (MCT) that either (i) and (iii) are inequivalent, or (ii) and (iv) are.

Against premise 1: it is doubtful that (i) and (ii) are inequivalent, except on readings which equivocate. For example, one can conceive of circumstances where (i) is true, in that justice is a pro tanto reason for Tom’s punishment, and where (ii) is false, in that humanity is a pro tanto reason against it. What cannot be conceived are circumstances where (i) and (ii) differ in truth-value relative to the same considerations.

Against premise 2: it is doubtful that (iii) and (iv) are equivalent, for the embedded that-clauses report exemplifications of distinct (converse) act-types. Even if these exemplifications obtain in all and only the same worlds, they are plausibly distinct.

Geach’s mistake was to consider a case of doing to, not one of doing with.

Suppose that it will take both Tom and John to support a collapsing ledge holding a baby – no one of them can support it, and no-one else is in the vicinity. Now consider:

 (v) Tom ought to support the ledge with John.

(vi) John ought to support the ledge with Tom.

These are inequivalent, for doing with, unlike doing to, entails that several agents act.

Here’s why: one can conceive of circumstances in which (v) is true, but (vi) false, given that, by “ought entails can” a ought to φ only if a can φ. For suppose both men have the ability to cooperate with the other, if the other is open to doing so, but Tom stubbornly refuses to exercise this ability. Then, Tom could support the ledge with John, but John cannot support it with Tom. So on plausible moral assumptions, (v) but not-(vi).

Now consider:

(vii) It ought to be the case that Tom supports the ledge with John.

(viii) It ought to be the case that John supports the ledge with Tom.

These are equivalent, for doing with, unlike doing to, is symmetrical.

The embedded that-clauses report exemplifications of the same act-type (by the same agents). Hence there is no reason to think that these exemplifications are distinct.

Supersizing the (social) mind. The extended and group mind thesis

Thomas Szanto

Where does the mind of individuals stop and where do the minds of groups begin? And what are the conditions of individuation of individual and collective mental states, attitudes and beliefs? The paper aims at providing an integrated anti-individualistic account of how to respond to these questions in a way that the answers mutually support one another.

Questions concerning the boundaries of the mental have been at the forefront in recent philosophy of mind and cognition as well as in debates in social ontology and collective intentionality. Two main currents have emerged in the last decades that both attack the traditional Cartesian geography of the mental as being solely confined to the internal make-up of individuals: On the one hand, we have those philosophers and cognitive scientists who defend the Extended Mind Thesis (EMT) (i.e. the thesis that some cognitive and mental processes extend beyond the skull/skin of individuals, incorporating artefacts and other individuals, thus constituting ‘coupled’ or ‘integrated’ cognitive systems). On the other hand, there is an increasing number of philosophers and economists who claim that there are (in some sense or another) groups and agents with minds, intentions and beliefs of their own. Yet, surprisingly, with little exception there has been hardly any attention paid to whether and how these anti-individualistic approaches methodologically and substantially relate and reinforce each other.

In my paper, I shall try to fill that research gap. In particular, I will put forward a novel collectivistic reading of the ‘parity principle’ known from the standard EMT according to which a mental state is a state of a (singular) group mind, iff the epistemological content of that state is determined by and supervenient on a set of attitudes (SA), such that without knowing SA one cannot know the epistemological content of the state in question.


The ontology of revolutions: the Libyan case and the foundation of social reality

Daniela Tagliafico

In Making the Social World Searle defines a government as a system of status functions, which thus rests on collective acceptance (2010:163). This definition, however, seems to be highly problematic. Take the case of the Libyan revolution, during which several citizens no more accept the regime, while others still do: if the existence of a government is based on collective acceptance, then, one could wonder whether the Libyan State still exists or not. How many people must revolt against a regime before it stops existing? One? All? The 50% plus one? The risk is that of falling into the sorites paradox, ending up with social entities which are affected by a problem of ontological vagueness.

I will claim that a satisfying solution to this problem can be given only by recognizing two different notions of ‘collective acceptance’. On the one hand, collective acceptance can be understood as a natural fact, that is: as a collective behavior of acceptance towards a government (this is the notion employed by Searle, but it can be already found in Kelsen’s principle of efficacy). On the other hand, we can also understand collective acceptance as a social fact, whose existence is simply stated by the law system itself (what is called a fictio iuris).

By relying on this distinction I will claim that, even if collective acceptance understood as a natural fact is a precondition for the existence of a government (if there is no significant degree of acceptance, a government cannot be set up nor maintained), what founds the existence of a government is only collective acceptance understood as a fictio juris.


Inferentialism, commitment, and infraindividual and supraindividual ontologies

Jesús Zamora-Bonilla

Pragmatic inferentialism (e.g., Brandom (1994)) attempts to provide an alternative schema for the explanation of human actions and social facts, in a middleground between hermeneutic and rational choice models. Its basic explanatory element is the notion of commitment: actions are conceptualised as embedded within a normative framework that specifies what actions the agents are committed or allowed to perform. The most relevant aspect of those ‘normative frameworks’ consists in their being inferentially articulated, i.e., the agents are submitted to a system of inferential norms that specify what further commitments an agent is bound to, given what previous commitments she was bound to (and any other relevant ‘external’ circumstances).

In this paper, this basic schema is to two problems in social ontology: the ontological status of supraindividual entities and events (e.g., collective intentions, agents...), and that of the infraindividual processes and qualities that serve to explain the actions of individuals (beliefs, preferences, decisions...). In the first case, the existence of collective items is accounted through the possibility that some commitments are attributed to collective entities. Being an ‘agent’ is, for inferentialism, not something like a ‘physical’ or a ‘psychological’ property, but a normative status, and hence, nothing precludes the existence non-individual agents, as far as the systems of commitments that constitute them are robust enough.

Regarding the second question, though Brandom has tried to eliminate psychological notions from the landscape of the theory of action, replacing them for normative notions like ‘commitment’ or ‘entitlement’, we think that the latter cannot be integrated in a wholeheartedly naturalist view without some connection with psychological states. We suggest that the classical ‘BDI-ontology’ can be replaced by a ‘Norms-Commitment-Inference-ontology’, though resource to some more ‘primitive’ psychological and non-rational notions is necessary.