What ‘We’?


  • Holly Lawford-Smith University of Sheffield & Australian National University


collective obligation, unstructured groups, climate change, bearers of obligation, poverty, non-collectives’ obligations, humanitarian intervention


The objective of this paper is to explain why certain authors – both popular and academic – are making a mistake when they attribute obligations to uncoordinated groups of persons, and to argue that it is particularly unhelpful to make this mistake given the prevalence of individuals faced with the difficult question of what morality requires of them in a situation in which there is a good they can bring about together with others, but not alone. I will defend two alternatives to attributing obligations to uncoordinated groups. The first solution has us build better people, who will coordinate their actions willingly and spontaneously when the occasion arises. The second solution has us build better groups, so that when the occasion arises, there is a framework in place for coordinating members into action.


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