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Collective Intentionality

To use the phrase "collective intentionality" is to make a sociological statement. It's about the minds of individuals directed toward a similar goal or recognizing things believed to be similar. It has political connotations expressed in Plato's Republic and in the Social Contract theories of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

One can believe there is such a thing as collective intentionality without dismissing underlying individual consciousness. Although a mental point may be similar in each of two or more minds, in each mind the context within which that point exists is not exactly similar or can be quite dissimilar. What philosophers describe as "collective intentionality" might be no more than a statement such as "Hey, I agree with you," or two people from different stops getting on a bus wanting to go downtown," or a number of people voting to re-elect a congressman. Recognizing collective intentionality moves us beyond a vision of a world of socially disconnect individuals and beyond the world moving by the will of a single individual. History has always moved by collective intentionality. It can't be done otherwise.

As far as I can see to one is denying the reality of collective intentionality, but there are different opinions among philosophers as to what it is. J David Velleman argues that two people having communicated agreement with each other are sharing one intention. As I see it this is contrary to the subjectivity involved by each of the two. When intentions are similar, as in two people on a bus planning to get off at the same stop, or two people having a verbal agreement, for each individual the intentions are still operating within an individual context – subjective. There were differences in the mental makeup and social backgrounds of those who voted to make Barack Obama the Democratic Party's candidate for president. The world turns with a lot of conflicting intentionality and inefficient communication.

Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.