Distributing Cognition: A Defense of Collective Mentality Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Huebner, Bryce
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • While ordinary language allows for the attribution of mental states to collectivities, there is broad agreement among philosophers and cognitive scientists that such attributions should not be taken literally because they are at best explanatorily superfluous and at worst wildly implausible. I argue that the widely shared philosophical assumption that mentality is exclusively a property of individuals is mistaken. One prominent objection to the idea that collectives could be in genuinely mental states is that they lack self-consciousness and the capacity for qualitative consciousness. I argue that neither self-consciousness nor qualitative consciousness is necessary for mentality. But I also show that both collective self-consciousness and qualitative consciousness are possible. Another objection states that collectives cannot possess representations above and beyond the representations in the minds of the individuals that compose them. I counter that representations in individual minds often depend on representations in lower-level subsystems and I argue that collective representations can arise in a similar way. I conclude by demonstrating that collective cognition is not a mere possibility; there are cases of collective cognition in the actual world.
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  • In Copyright
  • Prinz, Jesse J.
  • Open access

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