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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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3. Borders of Cooperation


The second section of this book has explained that the principle of belongingness is relevant for clarifying the development of institutionalized collaborative activities called institutions. Developing an institutional design means institutionalizing practices, activities, duties and memberships for having cooperative behaviors in every case and consequently for preserving the social organization itself. The principle of belongingness enables us not only to go beyond the paradoxes of the contracted-centered approaches but also to understand why complex institutionalized organizations are created and constantly improved. Institutionalized cooperative activities represent enduring social activities embedded in the human historical process. Hence, the cooperative enterprise develops human civilization shaped prevalently by nations, which I define aut-I, i.e. institutions par excellence. One can also say that institutions improve human power over reality and therefore they are fundamental for assuring their members’ welfare and enduring freedom.

The fundamental function of the personal engagement is possible due to the integration of the individuals in the practical activities by means of the acquisition of competencies and skills. This enables institutions to have members who offer different competences and readiness in accomplishing their assigned tasks. The main problem connected with this element is that individuals can become mere executors and consequently instrument of their own organization. In addition, the way in which an institution is guided, i.e. its leaders, hierarchies and laws, can produce institutionalized wrongdoings and crimes that are properly actuated by the members. In these cases it is important to distinguish the group’s responsibility from members’ responsibility as...

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