Group blameworthiness and group rights

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The following pair of claims is standardly endorsed by philosophers working on group agency: (1) groups are capable of irreducible moral agency and, therefore, can be blameworthy; (2) groups are not capable of irreducible moral patiency, and, therefore, lack moral rights. This paper argues that the best case for (1) brings (2) into question. Section 2 paints the standard picture, on which groups’ blameworthiness derives from their functionalist or interpretivist moral agency, while their lack of moral rights derives from their lack of sentience. In Section 3, I add support to a recent argument that this standard picture needs alteration: groups’ blameworthiness requires something akin to sentience, which groups acquire from members. Section 4 discusses rights: if groups acquire sentience from members, as Section 3 argues, then can groups have moral rights? I argue that they can, but that groups have only a limited range of moral rights, whose existence depends on (without being ontologically or justificatorily reducible to) the attitudes and actions of humans.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Group agency
  • group blameworthiness
  • group rights

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