Phil Soc Seminar - Anne Schwenkenbecher (Murdoch)
27 May, 2016
Philosophy at UWA
Collective action problems occur where actions which are individually rational lead to suboptimal outcomes for all. Moral philosophy has its own type of collective action problems, which I call collective moral action problems. These are problems where in order to determine what is morally wrong or right we need to focus on sets of actions by two or more agents, rather than isolated individual actions. This may concern the ascription of moral responsibility for outcomes that have been brought about collectively (backward-looking). Or it may concern the question of individual obligations to collaborate towards producing specific outcomes (forward-looking responsibility). In this talk, I will focus on the latter problem. I will discuss whether the notion of ‘we-reasoning’ developed in recent literature on game theory and increasingly discussed in philosophy of economics can help us understand when obligations are genuinely held collectively by agents. My hypothesis is that in certain situations requiring cooperation, individual agents ought to we-reason, that is, they ought to frame the problem as one for the group.