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Collective Intentionality, Norms and Institutions

A Philosophical Investigation about Human Cooperation

Guido Seddone

Cooperation is the fundamental feature of intelligent beings. It makes them able to evolve complex social behaviors and to better resolve practical issues. Humans have evolved a very powerful form of cooperation, which is spread anywhere in the everyday life: norms, institutions, states, hierarchies, ordinary relationships, etc., are deeply determined by the original notion of cooperation. This book addresses the conditions of the human cooperative activities in order to focus on their common roots and to bring them back to an unitary origin. It is profoundly animated by the task of understanding how cooperative skills are able to evolve the plurality of the cooperative activities from the spontaneous to the institutional ones and to find a common denominator for joint actions. It also explores the social-political aspects related to joint activities and deals with the notion of intersubjective freedom.
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1. Nature and Origins of the We-Intentionality


Cooperative activities consist of actions borne by intentional subjects having a rational attitude to share intentional contents and to coordinate themselves in joint actions. In the recent debate about sociality this rational attitude is normally called We-intentionality. This must be explained in order to put the focus on all forms of human socialization including the more advanced institutions like states, nations and international organizations. In this sense, We-intentionality is a basic concept valid for cooperation in general that enables us to understand the rational elements responsible for the emergence of social organizations. A correct inquiry about this issue supplies us with a definition for the interdependence between individuals and groups and between individuals of the same group. This definition explains what social organizations are, which is their internal dynamic and what is the difference between an intentional cooperative unity and a mere aggregate of individuals. Moreover, such investigation provides the instruments for a social ontology that explains not only the intentional attitudes of the members towards a group, but rather the nature of the cooperation as an objective fact that finds its historical realization in human social organizations. Through a definition of group we might overcome different forms of contract-centered theories, which consider collaborative activities to be merely the result of an interpersonal agreement and commitment. In contrast to Tuomela, I believe that social organizations are not mechanism of self-committing and control over individual commitments, but rather organisms with the final structure of self-preservation. This self-preservation is borne by the...

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