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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 October 2002

Philip Pettit
Department of Politics, Princeton University



There is a type of organization found in certain collectivities that makes them into subjects in their own right, giving them a way of being minded that is starkly discontinuous with the mentality of their members. This claim in social ontology is strong enough to ground talk of such collectivities as entities that are psychologically autonomous and that constitute institutional persons. Yet, unlike some traditional doctrines (Runciman 1997), it does not spring from a rejection of common sense. I try to argue here that the claim is supported by the implications of a distinctive social paradox—the discursive dilemma—and is consistent with a denial that our minds are subsumed in a higher form of Geist or in any variety of collective consciousness. And having done that, I draw attention to one way in which the claim may prove to have policy-making implications.

Research Article
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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