T Nation

Thoughts on Collective Guilt

I have been reading several threads and while I was thinking of responding to a few, it struck me that all of them had the same elephant in the room: the concept of collective guilt.

In particular, we have to make our peace with this before we really can discuss most of the big ticket items (racism, Islamic terrorism and such). So let me make a stab at talking about it and see where it goes from there.

Collective guilt is the assumption that membership in some group, clan, tribe etc. imparts responsibility for individual actions by members to all members. Feuds are a basic example of this thinking. This is the idea that the sins of the father may be visited upon the sons. (Actually the Bible waffles on this, from endorsing it (Leviticus 26:39) to flatly rejecting it (2 Chronicles 25:4)).

Generally in American law, one cannot be tried for what one is rather merely for what one has done. Most of the recent calls for collective guilt have come from socialists and fascists, where economic, racial, etc. affiliations are at the center of state policies. Islamisists assume that religion should be the basis for deciding the fate of groups.

Pretty much everyone would reject collective guilt for simple criminal activities. If your grandfather was a murderer, it would be very unfair to execute you 50 years after the fact (again, the logic behind blood feuds would accept this though). However, by the same token, most great social injustices are phrased precisely in these terms.

I suspect that the reason we seem to have a double standard is the diffuse nature of victimhood. A specific victim engenders a concept of justice (possibly tinged with vengeance) where some sort of systemic grievance does not have nearly the direct cause and effect. This gets complicated even more so when time has passed. Nobody seems to want the Romans to apologize to the Jews for causing the Diaspora, do they? Although this leads to many goofy pronouncements (recent one was the tenured woman faculty member with a couple of Ph. D.'s explaining to me why she was “oppressed”) which get press, nobody even tries to nail down the idea or discuss realistically, least as far as I can tell.

Here are the questions for you all.

  • Do we accept that collective guilt is a valid concept that is lacking in US law?

  • If so, why aren’t we re-writing the Bill of Rights to reflect this?

– jj

Here are some random thoughts I put together, feel free to ignore. I ramble.

While collective guilt is cited, particularly in the case of Germany, I think we can all accept that to the extent that one benefits from a previous crime, one receives unfair advantage. Certainly, everyone receives some advantages and liabilities from birth. These may include the possession or lack of wealth, physical attractiveness, political power, intellectual aptitude, or even good will.

When the source of this advantage or liability is a crime, or something that is generally regarded as a reprehensible voluntary act, then we tend to say that this is unfair in a way that transcends the unequal distributions of mere fortune.

That is, if my father swindled your father out of a fortune, and I benefited from it while you languished in poverty, this is substantially different than if my father were merely the recipient of dynastic wealth that had been fairly acquired over generations. That my wealth would be attributed to simple chance or luck, as opposed to unfairness, is due largely to the remoteness or the proximity of the crime, and that we should not ascribe malice to fortune, which is indifferent to human beings and does not will as we do. Rather, blame must be given to the extent that an action is voluntary.

To say that I am blameworthy for my father’s actions would therefore be incorrect. But to the extent that I know those actions, and accept the benefits of them, am I not complicit? But this is too much of a simplification, because the causality is very direct and easy to discern.

Whereas, in your scenario, the crimes are very remote, and there is disagreement as to whether or not there really is a benefit from those old crimes. To assign anyone a measure of guilt would require tracing causality back to the individual, and determining his share in the action. This is the case, at least, with material wealth, which must be traced materially.

Instead, the discourse seems to focus instead on intangible goods, such as good will. But these intangibles may not be distributed to a group, and gain power by their exclusionary rights, without being diminished by their wide spread, so that if every person in the population but one were to possess these rights, they would be equally useful in view of the single excluded person. But rather, we would like to say that there is an economy of benefit, and that one group of individuals profits more or less by the exclusion of other individuals.

Now, we may accept that good will, which is outside the power of a modern legislator to influence, must have power proportional to the power possessed by the benefactor. Because good will from a person with no other goods to bestow has little economic effect, if any. And to the extent that the excluded group is enlarged, it also gains further goods and the exclusive rights to them, and may distribute them within, while excluding those who have excluded them. There remains, still, the problem of factional political power, but that is a separate problem that must be dealt with separately.

But if intangibles are neither subject to recompense nor have certain causality, we must return to material goods. But we already know that such an accounting would be difficult. One argument is that material goods represent intangible goods. So, if some are impoverished while others thrive, and there are some categories that seem to create both the impoverished and the thriving, and we know that there was a crime against the impoverished in the remote past, we may take their current circumstances to be evidence in favor of a continuing benefit being conferred on the criminals’ subsequent generations. And when others are also able to take part in that benefit, who have no causal link to the original crime, this seems to be evidence for an intangible benefit.

To redistribute the material residue of such intangible benefits is, then, a way of attempting to put into law what cannot be put into law as such; the elimination of existent intangible benefit. But we have already seen that such benefits only function to the extent that they are exclusionary, and further exclusion only reinforces the intangible while diminishing the material.

And this is why Plato said that cities should be homogeneous, and why Hobbes after him ascribed the greatest evil to factions. And all of this seems to me to ask, how may we eliminate, rather than increase, our differences? Because the intangibles are attached to all those sorts of ways in which we differ, and the minimization of those differences seems to indicate a minimization of the intangible benefits.

[quote]jj-dude wrote:
(recent one was the tenured woman faculty member with a couple of Ph. D.'s explaining to me why she was “oppressed”)[/quote]

Maybe she was oppressed by all the female-only bursaries, scholarships, and affirmative action that got her to where she was. So, unlike a white male of middle-class birth, she cannot truly appreciate her accomplishments as being a product of her own merits.

[quote]ElbowStrike wrote:
jj-dude wrote:
(recent one was the tenured woman faculty member with a couple of Ph. D.'s explaining to me why she was “oppressed”)

Maybe she was oppressed by all the female-only bursaries, scholarships, and affirmative action that got her to where she was. So, unlike a white male of middle-class birth, she cannot truly appreciate her accomplishments as being a product of her own merits.[/quote]

In reality, she had looked at all the facts and decided that the only prudent explanation for the state of the world was a conspiracy theory. In some indeterminate way men were always oppressing her. Even if she couldn’t articulate anything she assured me that “the sexism is always there” and would set about the thankless task of exposing it, usually using a goodly dosage of Freudian psychology (no, she had no credentials there, but pop psych from start to finish). In this way she managed to find unconscious oppression where the rest of us would find nothing. She got pretty cranky when I excused myself to go fix Bulgarian bauxite prices as my small part of the patriarchical dominion of the Earth. Boy was she cranky…

– jj

Collective anything is not possible. All people act as individuals though they may conspire and collude with each other for a common goal.

Collective guilt is merely a philosophical convenience to indicate that a group of people should be held accountable for some past actions. As the example cited above indicates how can I be held to account for the actions of my father? To the extent possible reparations can be made to the afflicted individuals but not by punishing the guilt free.

I certainly carry no guilt for slavery nor do I sympathize with those who are related to slaves. Many of us can trace our ancestry back to slaves or slave owners. So what?!

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Collective anything is not possible. All people act as individuals though they may conspire and collude with each other for a common goal.
[/quote]

In the first sentence you say “collective anything” is not possible–by which i can only assume you mean that there exist no instances of a thing of which “collective” is predicated. In the second sentence you give an example of an instance of collective action. Now that the contradiction is clear, which is it?

[quote]jj-dude wrote:

  • Do we accept that collective guilt is a valid concept that is lacking in US law?

  • If so, why aren’t we re-writing the Bill of Rights to reflect this?

– jj [/quote]

  • No
  • see above

[quote]stokedporcupine wrote:
LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Collective anything is not possible. All people act as individuals though they may conspire and collude with each other for a common goal.

In the first sentence you say “collective anything” is not possible–by which i can only assume you mean that there exist no instances of a thing of which “collective” is predicated. In the second sentence you give an example of an instance of collective action. Now that the contradiction is clear, which is it?[/quote]

How do any individuals act collectively? They can cooperate but do not confuse that with collective action. Only individuals act. If I require your help you must choose to act with your own muscular and nervous systems. I cannot make you cooperate.

[quote]jj-dude wrote:
Collective guilt is the assumption that membership in some group, clan, tribe etc. imparts responsibility for individual actions by members to all members. Feuds are a basic example of this thinking. This is the idea that the sins of the father may be visited upon the sons. (Actually the Bible waffles on this, from endorsing it (Leviticus 26:39) to flatly rejecting it (2 Chronicles 25:4)).[/quote]

I don’t think you want to define “collective guilt” like this. First, whatever collective guilt is, it is not an assumption. You might want to say that a certain assumption motivates discussion of collective guilt, but guilt is an emotion. This brings us to another issue, when you say “collective guilt”, are you referring to the emotion guilt, or the legal/moral status of being guilty? This is a big distinction.

Also, the idea that collective guilt involves some sort of “imparting” from one individual to another seems to only get at one part of collective guilt. That is, is it not possible for a group of individuals to all be “guilty” of something they all did?

These issues and distinctions need to be worked out before much more can be said on the issue. After looking at the examples given here of instances of “collective guilt”, it appears to me that people use the notion of “collective guilt” to cover a wide range of ideas. This semantic inconsistency of course will lead to problems.

look at some of the common examples that come up when people on both sides of the “collective guilt” issue get worked up:

(1) the slavery issue in America. Are white Americans today somehow responsible for slavery? should they feel guilt? In the slavery issue, we have a case where there are no current living direct victims and no current living direct oppressors. Also, though obviously white America committed a grave injustice, it also righted that injustice. It was largely white Americans, with a white American president, and a mostly white American army, that freed the slaves.

Admitting that this is a touchy issue, i’m just reporting the facts. If one looks at the facts though, one can start to understand why one would argue that white America today should feel no “guilt” for the slavery issue. On the other hand, its easy to see why one would argue white America still holds some responsibility, since its arguable that African Americans still have not caught up to white America socially or economically.

(2) the issue of current “affirmative action” programs for minorities. I suppose this is really what you want to talk about when you try to define “collective guilt”, as on the surface, it might appear that many non racist white man are being “discriminated” against for crimes they did not directly commit. On the surface, these facts might be true. One need not talk about some abstract sense of “collective guilt” though to understand why affirmative action programs might be a good thing.

Though there are obviously many white men who have never directly discriminated a minority ground and who have been “discriminated” against because of an affirmative action program, those white men are still a part of a relatively privileged class. The idea is that “white privilege” is a very real systematic phenomena.

In a sense, white men are guilty of “discrimination” because they have no problems accepting all of the social privileges that come along with their background. At the same time, these white men cry when they feel unfairly treated–never mind that they don’t seem to much care about the unfair treatment of others.

The idea behind affirmative action then is not that there is some abstract sense of “collective guilt” that the society must repay, but simply the acknowledgment that there are real systematic injustices in the society that need to be addressed.

please remember that i’m not trying to argue for or against any of this, just trying to point out that one need not worry about some abstract sense of collective guilt in order to talk about issues like affirmative action. Often, one need only look at the facts. Also, the second point I was trying to make was that when giving examples and talking about these terms, one needs to be very careful that they are not falling into semantic confusion, which often happens.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
stokedporcupine wrote:
LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Collective anything is not possible. All people act as individuals though they may conspire and collude with each other for a common goal.

In the first sentence you say “collective anything” is not possible–by which i can only assume you mean that there exist no instances of a thing of which “collective” is predicated. In the second sentence you give an example of an instance of collective action. Now that the contradiction is clear, which is it?

How do any individuals act collectively? They can cooperate but do not confuse that with collective action. Only individuals act. If I require your help you must choose to act with your own muscular and nervous systems. I cannot make you cooperate.[/quote]

Well, since you provide no special definition of “collective”, I will merely assume that “collective” action is any action that can be predicated of a collection of things. This seems to be the best interpretation of the words given the grammar–IE, “collective” is the adjective form of “collection”.

Thus, you provide an example of collective action in your original post. Individuals act “collectively” when there is a collection of them who perhaps “conspire and collude with each other for a common goal” and thus, as a collection, do something. In other words, if the individuals form a group–ie, a collection–and proceed to act as a group, we now have an example of individuals acting collectively.

You say, “Only individuals act.”, but individual what? Goats? Atoms? People? Sure, but what about the government of the United States? Surely the Government of the United States acts–we even sometimes call things an “official action” of the government of the United states. So, clearly the government of the US acts. What is the government then? Surely its not an individual–its a group. You could perhaps argue and say that its individuals actings, but surely this is just a less explicit way to say a GROUP of individuals acting. Further, if i stopped you on the street, outside of the context of this debate, and asked you if the government consisted of a group of people, surely you would agree. So, why change your tune now?

You also say, “I cannot make you cooperate.”, which is true. But, what if i freely choose to cooperate? Then it seems appropriate to say we are acting as a group. This is at least what people normally mean when they use the word “group”.

Which all leads to the last point. You say, “They can cooperate but do not confuse that with collective action.”, which suggests you disagree with the common usage of the word group. If this is the case though, you should define your terms and explain your position before pronouncing that “collective anything is not possible”.

[quote]stokedporcupine wrote:
Which all leads to the last point. You say, “They can cooperate but do not confuse that with collective action.”, which suggests you disagree with the common usage of the word group. If this is the case though, you should define your terms and explain your position before pronouncing that “collective anything is not possible”.[/quote]

It is my understanding that collective action implies a “group will”. I do not believe will exists therefore I cannot believe in group will.

Actions are an expression of individual valuations. They are necessarily always directed at removing dissatisfaction. All action must be directed toward something valued and all valuations are subjective – and therefore individualistic. This means collective action is not possible. Cooperation, on the other hand, does not make the unnecessary implication that there is some group will directing action to ward a singularly valued end.

For example, we might agree on finding a cure for cancer but you may value that action differently than I do and for different reasons. We can cooperate our efforts in finding a cure but it is not collective action, nor could it ever be.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
stokedporcupine wrote:
Which all leads to the last point. You say, “They can cooperate but do not confuse that with collective action.”, which suggests you disagree with the common usage of the word group. If this is the case though, you should define your terms and explain your position before pronouncing that “collective anything is not possible”.

It is my understanding that collective action implies a “group will”. I do not believe will exists therefore I cannot believe in group will.

Actions are an expression of individual valuations. They are necessarily always directed at removing dissatisfaction. All action must be directed toward something valued and all valuations are subjective – and therefore individualistic. This means collective action is not possible. Cooperation, on the other hand, does not make the unnecessary implication that there is some group will directing action to ward a singularly valued end.

For example, we might agree on finding a cure for cancer but you may value that action differently than I do and for different reasons. We can cooperate our efforts in finding a cure but it is not collective action, nor could it ever be.[/quote]

ah, this is what i was hoping for. this clears up your position nicely. this is probably a defensible position to hold, but some food for thought.

your first little implication can be turned against you. you say action implies will (“collective action implies a ‘group will’”). You then deny the existence of will in general (“I do not believe will exists”). Using material implication on the first premise and the second premise shows your conclusion valid (your conclusion being that there cannot be group action).

The problem is though your general denial of will and your basis for the first premise–that action implies will–allows you to draw the same implication for individual action. Thus, i can use the same principles and premises that you use to argue that there can be no individual action, which i assume you don’t want to deny.

more formally:
action>will (Premise)
~will (premise)
group action>group will (instantiation from premise 1)
~group action (or) group will (material implication from previous step)
~group action (deduction from previous step and premise 2)

but, of course, i can produce the same argument against individual action by instantiating “individual action” into premise 1 instead of “group action”.

you could of course deny that you meant to hold such a general principle as premise 1 (action>will), but this would require you to explain why the principle holds only groups and not individuals.

the second objection is that you say, “All action must be directed toward something valued and all valuations are subjective – and therefore individualistic.”, but in making this deduction you assume that groups cannot hold subjective valuations. Why can a group not hold a subjective valuation? You might argue that a group–being a plurality–cannot properly instantiate the property of “subjectiveness”, but it can do this relatively. What i mean is that a group can certainly hold certain valuations, and that these valuations could be called “subjective” relative to another group.

For a concrete example, the group we might call “white American women” surely holds some unique valuations, such as valuing what might be called “the furtherance of white American women”. This valuation is also subjective, since it is the result of the groups unique history and its unique collective interests, all relative to other groups.

Thus, to defend your deduction you must show that a group cannot hold subjective valuations.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

For example, we might agree on finding a cure for cancer but you may value that action differently than I do and for different reasons. We can cooperate our efforts in finding a cure but it is not collective action, nor could it ever be.[/quote]

As for this example, this raises the mereological question of whether a group is merely the sum of its parts. This question is difficult to answer, and assuming it one way or another is dangerous.

Also, how do you know i value that action for a different reason then you? motives for something like curing cancer are surely complex. while of course we might hold some different reasons for wanting to cure cancer, surely its reasonable to think that there are at least some common motives between us. (you of course could just argue that some groups, like the group of people who want to cure cancer, are so large that there could not possibly be a motive common to all members. this isn’t a problem though, because then we just need to use a wittgensteinian sort of theory on family resemblance to produce a sort of “common motive” that is constituted by the family resemblance.)

could we not then posit that it is these common motives between us that constitute the “group reason”? if not, why not?

[quote]stokedporcupine wrote:
LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

For example, we might agree on finding a cure for cancer but you may value that action differently than I do and for different reasons. We can cooperate our efforts in finding a cure but it is not collective action, nor could it ever be.

As for this example, this raises the mereological question of whether a group is merely the sum of its parts. This question is difficult to answer, and assuming it one way or another is dangerous.

Also, how do you know i value that action for a different reason then you? motives for something like curing cancer are surely complex. while of course we might hold some different reasons for wanting to cure cancer, surely its reasonable to think that there are at least some common motives between us. (you of course could just argue that some groups, like the group of people who want to cure cancer, are so large that there could not possibly be a motive common to all members. this isn’t a problem though, because then we just need to use a wittgensteinian sort of theory on family resemblance to produce a sort of “common motive” that is constituted by the family resemblance.)

could we not then posit that it is these common motives between us that constitute the “group reason”? if not, why not?

[/quote]

I don’t know who you are…but please continue.

[quote]nephorm wrote:
[text] [/quote]

Good post, Neph. I am short on time (busy with work lately), but I would only add a few things.

I think, as you point out, that causality underpins any claim of “collective guilt”. It is the classic “but for” test - but for a given collective action, someone’s life would be different, usually as a matter of fairness.

The problem is demonstrating enough “but for” causality enough to make a legitimate claim - especially in the modern era. This is due in large part to too many supervening factors that might otherwise explain an outcome that someone doesn’t like.

Few can do better than speculate. This is because there are many other explanations that weaken the “but for” test.

As it pertains to the many threads regarding racism around here, the issue is whether “institutional racism” or the like is the cause of non-whites’ lack of success, usually in economic terms. “Institutional racism” is often offered up as the “but for” reason why minorities have lower salaries, lower levels of education, and so forth.

And, of course, that isn’t good enough to sustain a claim of “institutional racism” which would justify “collective guilt” (and thus a collective remedy). There is too much evidence that undermines the direct causality that is claimed, and “the thing doesn’t speak for itself”.

I don’t dismiss the idea of “collective guilt” out of hand, largely because although humans act individually, they do so by and through cultural constraints and norms a lot of times, and I think there may be times when it is appropriate to recognize when individuals are, in a way, agents of their culture. But “collective guilt” must be limited to situations when the causality is direct and the harm specific.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
nephorm wrote:
[text]


And, of course, that isn’t good enough to sustain a claim of “institutional racism” which would justify “collective guilt” (and thus a collective remedy). There is too much evidence that undermines the direct causality that is claimed, and “the thing doesn’t speak for itself”.

… But “collective guilt” must be limited to situations when the causality is direct and the harm specific.[/quote]

(well said)…and therein lies the problem.
If there is such a thing as collective guilt, then must there be a collective punishment? And who serves as the judge?

I would prefer that it is obliged to find individuals responsible for calumny, and not to impose only a blanket punishment.
In another thread, much was made of “forgive and forget” as a civilizing agency; I might prefer, “Forgive most, but forget nothing.”

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:
nephorm wrote:
[text]

Good post, Neph. I am short on time (busy with work lately), but I would only add a few things.

I think, as you point out, that causality underpins any claim of “collective guilt”. It is the classic “but for” test - but for a given collective action, someone’s life would be different, usually as a matter of fairness.

The problem is demonstrating enough “but for” causality enough to make a legitimate claim - especially in the modern era. This is due in large part to too many supervening factors that might otherwise explain an outcome that someone doesn’t like.

Few can do better than speculate. This is because there are many other explanations that weaken the “but for” test.

As it pertains to the many threads regarding racism around here, the issue is whether “institutional racism” or the like is the cause of non-whites’ lack of success, usually in economic terms. “Institutional racism” is often offered up as the “but for” reason why minorities have lower salaries, lower levels of education, and so forth.

And, of course, that isn’t good enough to sustain a claim of “institutional racism” which would justify “collective guilt” (and thus a collective remedy). There is too much evidence that undermines the direct causality that is claimed, and “the thing doesn’t speak for itself”.

I don’t dismiss the idea of “collective guilt” out of hand, largely because although humans act individually, they do so by and through cultural constraints and norms a lot of times, and I think there may be times when it is appropriate to recognize when individuals are, in a way, agents of their culture. But “collective guilt” must be limited to situations when the causality is direct and the harm specific.[/quote]

Just a comment on the whole “demonstrating ‘but for’ causality”. This is of course a purely empirical question, and if one is serious about figuring out just what sort of group dynamics are really at play in society, then they should look at the empirical evidence. There are whole subfields of sociology that research these areas and group dynamics in general. While i’m not overly familiar with the literature on this exact topic (though I am familiar with the literature on ethnic/racial groups in general), i would hate to speculate which way it goes without actually reviewing it.

Since this thread is about racism discussion in general, I’m just observing that many of the minority/majority group dynamics debates that go on here could be solved by reviewing the literature and seeing what said group dynamics actually look like.

[quote]thunderbolt23 wrote:

[/quote]

Good points, and I especially like this:

[quote]
I don’t dismiss the idea of “collective guilt” out of hand, largely because although humans act individually, they do so by and through cultural constraints and norms a lot of times, and I think there may be times when it is appropriate to recognize when individuals are, in a way, agents of their culture. But “collective guilt” must be limited to situations when the causality is direct and the harm specific.[/quote]

What I find even more interesting than collective guilt - and what is occasionally meant by the term - is collective shame. That is, the idea that not only must we make reparations for the harm done, where it is discernible, but must also feel shame for our forebears.

Hmmm.

In criminal law, it’s a cherished tenet of our system that only the person responsible for a crime can be punished for that crime. For most crimes - and particularly those with harsh punishments, you need not only to have committed the prohibited act, but also to have intended to commit the prohibited act. There’s only one exception I can recall, and that’s the felony murder rule ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_murder_rule ) - but even that requires that the person held responsible be committing a crime, and that the fact someone is killed in its commission is reasonably foreseeable. So, you have individual culpability. And this needs to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the private torts domain ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tort ), you have a lessened standard of proof (51% likelihood - “preponderance of the evidence”), and generally you don’t need intent - but you still almost always (more directly below) need at least some individual causal responsibility. In other words, your individual act needs to have caused the harm - even in jurisdictions with joint and several liability ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_and_several ), the defendant needs to have some individual responsibility to have liability.

There is, however, one area of which I’m aware (outside of contracts, which is a different and wholly voluntary regime) in which one can have liability without need for responsibility for wrongdoing: unjust enrichment claims ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unjust_enrichment ). And I believe this area is nicely summarized under Thunder’s post above, so I’ll just add a few points. This can be very messy in terms of both valuation of the amount of the enrichment and causation - and you still need to show the causation for the enrichment to the particular individual. However, even in the case of unjust enrichment, there’s no fault per se - it’s just a matter of fixing the act of the unjust enrichment.

Interestingly, we also do not punish people for NOT acting, even when they could stop a harm, unless they have a particular duty to act (such as a doctor to treat someone who comes to his office suffering a heart attack, or a parent supervising a child). If you were to see a stranger drowning, you have no legal duty to do anything to help him - even if you could help him without endangering yourself. There are some public policy reasons for this (don’t want people getting in the way of emergency workers, but do want a bright-line rule that people understand), but the underlying moral principle is that people are not responsible for harms they did not cause.

I don’t know much about sociology or group dynamics. I do know that the principle underlying individual responsibility - and freedom and individual autonomy - is that people are responsible for their own actions, and not others’ actions.

[quote]stokedporcupine wrote:
The problem is though your general denial of will and your basis for the first premise–that action implies will–allows you to draw the same implication for individual action. Thus, i can use the same principles and premises that you use to argue that there can be no individual action, which i assume you don’t want to deny.
[/quote]

But what is will? I think this is just an other one of those philosophical conveniences to categorize unexplainable behavior. In general all action can be explained as the removal of dissatisfaction. I do X because it satisfies Y.

As a simple example, I shift in my seat to redistribute my weight in a more comfortable manner after sitting in one position for too long. Is this the will in action? As a matter of convenience you could say so, but as a matter of convenience you could say that about any action. What course then do we have to categorize actions other than some unexplainable will? Will does not exist. It is merely a simplification that cannot be argued in any logical fashion. It is like faith in that we can accept it without argumentation (faith is a special case because while it does not add any new understanding to the universe it is considered emotive).

The existence of group will even if I admitted to accepting individual will would still be hard to defend. All individuals value ends subjectively therefore to say they act toward the same end with the same valuation, while contingently true, isn’t necessarily true. In order for group will to exist this would require a necessary truth.