Luke Roelofs (Australian National University)
Intentional explanation is a strikingly useful form of explanation, and human life would be unrecognisable if we did not routinely apply it to the understanding of individual behaviour. So it is not surprising that we routinely also use the idiom of intentional explanation – of beliefs, desires, and actions aimed at satisfying those desires according to those beliefs – to talk about human collectives. After all, if we could explain collective behaviour by reference to collective beliefs and desires, that would be a major explanatory boon. On the other hand, if we applied this explanatory scheme to phenomena which do not fit it, we would simply be entangling ourselves in unproductive metaphors. The philosophical project of analysing collective intentionality is important because it helps us to see when intentional explanations of collective phenomena are well-founded, and when they are not.
There are two well-discussed sorts of case where intentional explanations of collective phenomena are appropriate; this paper aims to make space for a third in between them. Continue reading Joint Mental States and Quasi-Agential Groups