What We Can Intend: Recognition and Collective Intentionality

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Arruda, Caroline
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The concept of recognition plays an integral role in political philosophy, often serving as a standard by which to secure a community's unity or to remedy injustice. It also plays a role in ethics, where it is understood as something we owe to others by virtue of their status as persons. In my dissertation, I argue that most views of recognition suffer from their inability to describe what recognition is. By drawing on literature in the philosophy of action, I argue that recognition is better described as an intentional action to count another person as a legitimate, self-determining agent. We intend to regulate our actions in terms of this attitude and to realize the state of affairs in which the recognized agent continues to be regarded as legitimate. Intending to recognize another agent is rationally required given one's belief that she meets the criteria for rational agency. To defend this claim, I challenge the standard account of normative reasons as requiring a desire or desire-like state to motivate one to act in light of them. If recognition is an intentional action, it has conditions for its satisfaction. Successfully intending to recognize another depends on facts of the matter about the social world — namely, that recognition is an appropriate intention to hold in a given social context. It also depends on the recognizing agent's attribution of a reciprocal intention to the other agent to recognize her in turn. If recognition is reasonable to intend in a given social context, then one agent who has the intention to recognize another will reasonably expect that the latter agent, qua rational agent, will hold a similar intention. This intention is thus a matter of common knowledge. The common knowledge condition explains how agents mutually recognize one another. Their respective intentions are thus dependent on one another's actions for their fulfillment. As a result, relations of recognition are instances of collective intentionality, given a novel conception of collective intentional action that I call the Goal-Based Account. I conclude by arguing that my definition of recognition provides a more stable foundation upon which to base the claim that we owe recognition to others.
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
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