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Volume 35, 2018

The Joint Commitment Account

Frederick F. Schmitt
Pages 74-98
DOI: 10.5840/protosociology2018355

Remarks on Conversation and Negotiated Collective Belief

Gilbert (1989) and Gilbert and Priest (2013) have argued that paradigmatic conversations involve a collectivity of the conversers who participate in the conversation, in the sense that the conversers put forth and negotiate proposals of propositions to be collectively believed by them. Here I explore the plausibility of this Negotiated Collective Belief (NCB) thesis. I begin by supporting a more basic claim, that the nature of conversation itself entails that a conversation always involves a collectivity of the conversers. I then endorse and supplement Gilbert and Priest’s argument for the NCB thesis. I trace resistance to the thesis to the view that collective belief plays no important role in two primary social ends of conversation, exchanging information and making personal connections. I concede that this is so, but I endorse the view (with roots in Taylor 1985) that collective belief does play an important role in a different primary social end of conversation, the creation of a public space of thought. Thus, the NCB thesis is supported by argument and contributes to an explanation of how conversation fulfills one of its primary social ends.

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