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Collins September 2019

Book Workshop on Stephanie Collins - Group Duties

Cover of the book 'Group Duties' by Stephanie Collins

Stephanie Collins (Australian Catholic University)
will be joining us at CEPL
for a workshop on her new book, 
Group Duties: Their Existence and Implications for Individuals 
(Oxford University Press 2019) on 6 September 2019
at UCD Belfield Campus, Dublin.

For more information on the book see (opens in a new window)the OUP page.

For more information on Dr Collins, see (opens in a new window)her personal page.

For enquiries, please contact Marinus Ferreira: (opens in a new window)marinus.ferreira@ucd.ie

Directions, abstracts, handouts, and further information about the workshop


The workshop will take place in Room D101, Newman Building, UCD Belfield Campus, Dublin 4.

6 September

    Morning tea 
    Keynote: Stephanie Collins (Australian Catholic University) - "How much can we ask of group agents?"
    Bennet Francis (University of Reading) - "Proto-Shared Agency and Responsibility for Climate Change"
   Brian Carey (Trinity College Dublin) - “What should count as a credible commitment to collectivize?”
   Diana Adela Martin (Technical University Dublin) - "Macroethical duties: From individual to collective responsibility in engineering"
   Afternoon tea
    Kenneth Silver (Trinity College Dublin) - "Group Weakness"
    Marinus Ferreira (University College Dublin) - "Coalitions and the group duty to maintain going concerns"

Summary of the Book

Moral duties are regularly attributed to groups: the United Kingdom has a duty to defend human rights; environmentalists have a duty to push for global systemic reform; humanity has a duty to eradicate poverty. Are such attributions philosophically defensible or mere political rhetoric? To answer this, we need a model that can take in details about the groups involved in real-world political problems and produce conclusions about (i) which of these groups can have duties and (ii) what this implies for each group’s members.

The book develops (what I call) the ‘Tripartite Model’ of group duties, which divides groups into three types. First, there are groups that are mere combinations—collections of agents that don’t have any goals or decision-making procedures in common. ‘Humanity’, ‘the affluent’, and ‘the international community’ are examples of combinations. These groups cannot bear moral duties. Instead, when we are tempted to attribute duties to them, we should re-cast the purported duty as a series of duties—one borne by each agent in the combination. Each duty demands its bearer to ‘I-reason’: roughly, to do the best they can, given whatever they happen to believe the others will do. Second, there are groups whose members share goals but lack decision-making procedures. These are coalitions. Coalitions include environmentalists, social justice warriors, and the alt-right. Coalitions also cannot bear duties, but their alleged duties should be replaced with members’ several duties to ‘we-reason’: roughly, to act on the presumption that the other members will do their part in pursuing the group’s goal. Third and finally, collectives have group-level procedures that have the capacity to make decisions on the basis of moral considerations. Collectives include states, limited liability companies, and non-profits. They can bear duties. Collectives’ duties imply duties for collectives’ members to use their role in the collective with a view to the collective doing its duty.

This model allows us to properly discipline our ethical-political thought, talk, and practice: to attribute moral duties to only those groups that can bear them, and to attribute duties to groups’ members on that basis.

Contact the Centre for Ethics in Public Life (CEPL)

CEPL, School of Philosophy, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
E: cepl@ucd.ie