No Need for Infinite Iteration

A Critique of the Collectivist Copernican Revolution in Social Ontology


  • Sveinung Sundfør Sivertsen University of Bergen


collective action, individualistic approach, mutual belief, infinite iteration, common knowledge


As part of his argument for a “Copernican revolution” in social ontology, Hans Bernhard Schmid (2005) argues that the individualistic approach to social ontology is critically flawed. This article rebuts his claim that the notion of mutual belief necessarily entails infinite iteration of beliefs about the intentions of others, and argues that collective action can arise from individual contributions without such iteration. What matters is whether or when there are grounds for belief, and while extant groups and social structures may be relevant to some forms of collective action, this does not show that all forms of collective action depends on such such pre-established collectivity.


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