MANCEPT 2021 Workshop: The Normative Profile of Collective Agents

September 7, 2021 - September 10, 2021
University of Manchester

Manchester
United Kingdom

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(unaffiliated)
University of Vienna (PhD)

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THE NORMATIVE PROFILE OF COLLECTIVE AGENTS

Convenors: Niels de Haan (University of Vienna) and David P. Schweikard (Europa-University Flensburg)

Invited Speakers: Toni Erskine (ANU) and Herlinde Pauer-Studer (University of Vienna)

Topic: Which social groups (if any) are to count as agents in their own right? Which group agents (if any) are to count as moral agents in their own right? These and further questions concerning the possibility of group agency and the normative status of group agents lie at the core of recent debates in social ontology and social philosophy. They are of interest to political philosophy and political theory more broadly in so far as they target the foundations of established ways of ascribing agency to corporations and states, for instance, and of holding such large-scale organized social formations accountable. The respective discussions typically invoke and strengthen familiar oppositions between reductionists and non-reductionists, between individualists and holists.


This workshop is focused on questions regarding the normative profile of collective agency. The more specifically action-theoretical and ontological questions regarding the possibility of group agency shall not be ignored, but they won’t take centre stage. Instead, the discussions will target and explore the ways in which group agents instantiate, or indeed fail to instantiate, moral agency.


At least four different approaches might be put under scrutiny: first, the view that the locus of morality in group agents is solely on the level of the individual group members; second, the view that group agents can be designed in such a way that they can count as moral agents; third, the view that despite elaborate design group agents are principally incapable of the form of sensitivity specific to moral agency; and fourth, the view that in virtue of their design group agents, though capable of full-blown moral agency, systematically seek out special advantages and show a deep-seated sense of entitlement that shields them off against others’ complaints. These approaches suggest conceiving group agents either not as moral agents at all, as moral agents (more or less) on a par with individual agents, as psychopaths whose accountability is limited at best, or as assholes (in Aaron James’ terminological sense).


We invite submissions on topics directly related to the moral agency of group agents. In particular, and most importantly, this workshop is meant to address two particular challenges that go beyond defending any of these or alternative approaches on a conceptual level. First, one main discussion shall target the question as to whether any approach is applicable to all kinds of group agents or whether different kinds of group agents reveal specific normative profiles along the lines of the aforementioned approaches. And second, the workshop is focused on more applied questions concerning the moral agency of groups. Discussions shall make explicit reference to the design and agency of real-life collective agents, especially corporations and states. This is aimed at questions such as the following: Which corporation or which state displays what kind of normative profile? Given the design and actions of (or ascribable to) a particular corporation or state, how should its normative status be captured? And how could a differentiation between normative profiles of collective agents be used in prescriptions or critiques of their design?


Submission Information: To apply for this workshop, please send an abstract (300-500 words) prepared for anonymous review to ndehaanphilosophy@gmail.com by May 10, 2021. We especially welcome submissions from underrepresented groups. Each speaker will be allotted 30 minutes for presentation and 30 minutes for discussion. The exact timing of the sessions will be determined in view of confirmed speakers’ time-zones.


Conference Information: The MANCEPT Workshops 2021 take place between 7 and 10 September 2021. The conference will be held online. Registration will open in May. All participants must register in order to attend. The fees for MANCEPT Workshops 2021 are Academics: £45 Graduate students, retirees, and unaffiliated attendees: £20 Non-speaker/non-presenting attendees: £15 A small number of bursaries (for graduate students only) are available. Please state in your application whether you intend to apply for a bursary.


We look forward to your submission.


Kind regards,

Niels de Haan and David P. Schweikard

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