The Problem of the First Belief: Group Agents and Responsibility


  • Onni Hirvonen University of Jyväskylä


Christian List, collective beliefs, collective responsibility, group agency, moral personhood, Philip Pettit, philosophy, social ontology


Attributing moral responsibility to an agent requires that the agent is a capable member of a moral community. Capable members of a moral community are often thought of as moral reasoners (or moral persons) and, thus, to attribute moral responsibility to collective agents would require showing that they are capable of moral reasoning. It is argued here that those theories that understand collective reasoning and collective moral agency in terms of collective decision-making and commitment – as is arguably the case with Christian List and Philip Pettit’s theory of group agency – face the so-called “problem of the first belief” that threatens to make moral reasoning impossible for group agents. This paper introduces three possible solutions to the problem and discusses the effects that these solutions have in regard to the possibility of attributing moral responsibility to groups.


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