Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 58, Issue 1, 2021

Domingos Faria
Pages 82-93

Group Belief
Defending a Minimal Version of Summativism

Beliefs are commonly attributed to groups or collective entities. But what is the nature of group belief? Summativism and nonsummativism are two main rival views regarding the nature of group belief. On the one hand, summativism holds that, necessarily, a group g has a belief B only if at least one individual i is both a member of g and has B. On the other hand, non-summativism holds that it is possible for a group g to have a belief B even if no member of g has B. My aim in this paper is to consider whether divergence arguments for non-summativism and against summativism about group belief are sound. Such divergence arguments aim to show that there can be a divergence between belief at the group level and the corresponding belief at the individual level. I will argue that these divergence arguments do not decisively defeat a minimal version of summativism. In order to accomplish this goal, I have the following plan: In section 2, I will analyze the structure of two important counterexamples against the summativist view, which are based on divergence arguments. Such counterexamples are based on the idea that a group decides to adopt a particular group belief, even if none of its members holds the belief in question. However, in section 3, I will show that these counterexamples fail, because they can be explained without the need to posit group beliefs. More specifically, I argue that in these apparent counterexamples, we have only a ‘group acceptance’ phenomenon and not a ‘group belief’ phenomenon. For this conclusion, I advance two arguments: in subsection 3.1, I formulate an argument from doxastic involuntarism, and in subsection 3.2, I develop an argument from truth connection. Thus, summativism is not defeated by divergence arguments. Lastly, in section 4, I will conclude with some advantages of summativism.