Full Text

collective belief

margaret gilbert

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


In everyday speech we often refer to the beliefs of a group of people. We say such things as ‘The union believes that a strike would succeed’, and ‘In the opinion of the government war is inevitable’. How are such claims to be interpreted? Do they imply the existence of a ‘group mind’? Many assume that a simple summative (or aggregative) analysis is correct. That is, they assume that a group believes that p if and only if all or at least most members of the group personally believe that p ( see e.g. Quinton, 1975 , pp. 9. 17). A related analysis which has been considered is this: a group believes that p if and only if all or most members believe that p and this is common knowledge in the group ( Gilbert, 1987, 1989 ; see also Bach and Harnish, 1979 , p. 270). (‘Common knowledge’ is a technical term from Lewis, 1969 .) Neither of these analyses copes well with cases such as the following. A committee has to reach a view on some matter, for instance, whether taxation should be increased. Only one individual believes that taxation should be increased, but he is feared by the others and they ‘go along’ with him, voting in favour of increasing taxes. It seems that we can now say that in the committee's view taxation should be increased. If this is so, then an analysis of group belief in terms of what most members believe cannot be correct for all cases. An alternative analysis ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top