GROUP MEMBERSHIP AND POLITICAL

OBLIGATION
1. Political Bonds?
Many people feel, I think, that they are tied in a special way to their government, not just y !onds of affection,!
ut y moral onds. "hile they complain loudly and often, and not without justification, of the shortcomings of
government, they feel that they are nonetheless ound to support their country#s political institutions . . . in ways
that they are not ound to the corresponding institutions of other countries. $et it is difficult to give any sustance
to this feeling of a special moral ond. It seems to me that the prolem of political oligation is precisely the
prolem of e%plaining the nature and scope of such special moral onds &if any such e%ist' and of determining
who, if anyone, is constrained y them. &(. ). *immons, 1+,+, p. -./. (ll 0uotations from *immons here are from
this work'
1his is how (. )ohn *immons sets the scene for his discussion of political oligation in his ook Moral Principles
and Political 2ligations, one of the est known contemporary philosophical treatments of the suject.
(t the end of his ook, *immons concludes that, in his own words, !most citi3ens do not have political
oligations.! 4e is not alone in holding a view that could e so e%pressed. $et there is something awkward aout
this conclusion in the conte%t of his opening remarks.
(s we have seen, *immons egins his e%position y drawing attention to the fact that many people elieve &or
!feel!' that they are ound to support their country#s political institutions. 4e suggests that he is aout to e%plicate
and justify this elief. 4e concludes, aout 566 pages later, that the elief is false. 1hus he has not delivered what
he encouraged us to e%pect.
*omeone might respond that *immons has delivered something etter, from a philosophical point of view. 4e has
delivered a sort of !skeptical parado%.! 4e starts with an entrenched common elief7 he then shows that this elief
has no asis.
1he prolem with skeptical parado%es in general is that they call into 0uestion eliefs that seemed firm. 1hey
present not so much a point of 0uiescence, ut a challenge. 8an these common eliefs not after all find a
satisfactory e%plication and defense? 1he more entrenched the eliefs, the more we !can#t help having them,! the
more we are likely to have this reaction. "e will think7 something has gone wrong somewhere. I suggest that we
should think this. "e should go ack to the eliefs and e%amine them again to see if something can e made of
them after all.95:
I shall start in this paper from *immons#s initial datum7 many people feel that !they are ound to support their
country#s political institutions! &p. -', or that they have !special political onds which re0uire that they . . . support
the governments of their countries of residence! &p. 1+5'. I shall focus on the e%plicatory 0uestion7 what is the
supposed nature of the onds in 0uestion? "hat, in particular, is their presumed source? 1his 0uestion is, it seems,
a necessary preliminary to any 0uestion of justification.
I do not mean to take it for granted at the outset that there is indeed a single presumed source of oligation.
4owever it is possile that there is indeed a !single thought! standardly involved, and I shall e arguing in ehalf
of a single candidate thought, or type of thought. 1his, I shall argue, makes the common feeling *immons is
concerned with oth less of a pu33le and more well.founded than *immons#s discussion as a whole would suggest.
( preliminary note efore proceeding. In the opening passage 0uoted earlier *immons wrote of !moral onds.! In
other places he writes of !political onds,! or simply of onds or oligations, ut he appears everywhere to assume
that the onds in 0uestion are properly chracteri3ed as moral onds with a certain content.
It is of course 0uite standard to interpret the prolem of political oligation as a prolem in moral philosophy,
having to do with what is referred to as !moral oligation.! In my own specification of my topic and in my further
discussion, however, I shall drop the assumption that the onds in 0uestion are !moral! onds. Precisely how the
moral realm is to e demarcated and defined is not altogether clear. In any case the crucial point, as I see it, is that
we are supposedly talking aout actual onds or oligations, actual oligations with a certain content.
If I have what I am calling an !actual! ond, there is something that I am in some sense currently ound to do. In
particular it is not a matter merely of what I would have to do if I wished to conform to some institutional practice,
what may e referred to as an !institutional re0uirement! or !positional duty! &*immons#s phrase'. It is a matter of
what it is now incument upon me to do, all else eing e0ual.
5. (nalytic Memership (rguments
1he common elief *immons asked us to focus on had to do with &to 0uote his phrase' !our relationship to our
government! &Preface, p. viii'. 4e refers to people feeling that they are tied in a special way to !their! government,
not to governments in general or to just governments in particular. 1hey feel they are !ound to support their
country#s political institutions . . . in ways that they are not tied to the corresponding institutions of other countries!
&p. -'.
If this is the feeling we are trying to understand, it would seem plausile to consider head.on what it is for a
country to e !our! country. 1o put it somewhat more sujectively7 when do people think of a country as our
country? "hat do they elieve the relevant relationship consists in?
*urprisingly, *immons does not set out to e%plore this 0uestion. 4e does mention, however, a class of related
arguments which I shall call !analytic memership arguments.! 1he following 0uotation will serve to e%emplify
such arguments in general. It is from 1homas McPherson#s ook Political 2ligation.
McPherson writes7 !Belonging in society involves . . . rights and oligations. ;nderstanding what it is to e social
would e impossile unless we understood what it is to have rights and oligations.and vice versa.... 1hat social
man has oligations is an analytic, not a synthetic, proposition.... #"hy should I oey the government?# is an asurd
0uestion. "e have not understood what it means to e a memer of political society if we suppose that political
oligation is something that we might not have had and that therefore needs to e justified.! &p. </'
In his rief consideration of such arguments *immons suggests that even if eing a memer of a political society
logically entails having political oligations we can still 0uite reasonaly ask !"hy do we have such oligations?
"hat is their ground?!
*immons himself implicitly argues that the purported analytical connections do not in fact e%ist. 1hroughout his
ook he assumes a rather road notion of memership in a political society, in which, roughly, one is a memer if
one falls within the !effective domain! of a society#s laws. 4e ultimately argues, in effect, that there is no plausile
way of supporting the idea that memership in a political society does carry with it political oligations.
Presumaly, then, if asked, he would say that the alleged conceptual connection etween memership and
oligation does not in fact e%ist.
(nalytical memership arguments such as McPherson#s do, indeed, raise two important issues. =irst, is there
indeed some conceptual connection etween societal memership &under some natural construal' and oligation?
*econd, what is the ground of the connection? 8an the oligation e given an articulate asis?
Before leaving *immons#s discussion I want to draw attention to a place in his te%t where he comes close to
acknowledging that there is in fact a familiar concept of group memership which is rich enough to provide a
connection etween memership and oligation. 4ere he refers to what it is to e a !memer 9of an institution: in
the full sense of the word! &p. 1/67 my emphasis'. !I have given my e%press consent to e governed y its rules, or
perhaps I have held office . . . or accepted . . . sustantial enefits from the institution#s workings.... In such a
case ... I have done things which seem to tie me to 9the institution:, rather than eing a passive ystander.! &p. 1/6,
*immon#s emphasis'
Perhaps *immons does not see a connection etween this and the widespread sense of political onds ecause he
elieves that very few of us have ever !given our e%press consent! to the political institutions of our country or
held office, and so on. 1his may indeed e so. It would then e reasonale to assume that one cannot provide an
account of the sense that many have that they are politically oligated y reference to their memership !in the full
sense of the word.! =or they are not memers in the sense in 0uestion.
-. Plural *ujects
I shall now produce my own analytic memership argument. I shall argue that oligations attach to group
memership according to a central vernacular concept of a social group and I shall characteri3e the ground of the
oligation. My discussion in this section draws on previously pulished material, and is necessarily going to e
somewhat sketchy.9-:
1he first part of my discussion will aim to clarify some important features of an e%ample. >ecall that sociologists
and others often include 0uite small and transient populations in their lists of social groups. I shall start with such a
group.
I shall consider a small group comprising two people who are going for a walk together. I assume that their going
for a walk together makes them a social group, aleit a small and transitory one.
I take it that when people !go for a walk together! then, at a minimum, they walk along somewhere more or less
side y side. "alking together, in other words, demands a certain physical pro%imity. *uch pro%imity is a
necessary ut not a sufficient condition for walking together, as the following e%ample shows.
*uppose that you and I are out on a walk. "e are heading in the direction of 8entral Park. ?ow imagine that
without warning you suddenly turn away from me, without a word, and cross to the other side, disappearing down
@ast /+th *treet. Perhaps I will not e disappointed. But I will surely e surprised, and I will, more strongly, feel
that you have done something !0uite untoward.! $ou have in some way made a mistake. "e were out on a walk,
and you suddenly disappeared without any !y your leave.!
$our leaving would not have this effect in slightly altered circumstances. *uppose you had first clapped your hand
to your row and said to me in an upset tone !Aook, I#m sorry ut I#ve just rememered I have a doctor#s
appointment..I#m already late for itB..I#ve got to dashB.! *uch a speech is likely to elicit my ac0uiesence, at least if
I elieve you. 1hen you will have s0uared things with me efore leaving.
1his is a very humdrum story ut it carries an important lesson. "hen two people are out on a walk together, each
is understood to e under a certain constraint. 1his constraint can only e removed y mutual accord.
"ithout attempting a precise definition of Coligation#, it is surely plausile to suggest that the concept of
oligation applies here. If I am out on a walk with you, I have certain oligations.9/:
I shall now turn to the 0uestion of the ground of these oligations. 4ow do people ever end up going for a walk
together? 1his can happen in various ways. ;sually there will e some kind of dialogue. 8ase I7 I say7 !"ould you
like to come for a walk up =ifth (venue to 8entral Park?! $ou reply7 !$esB..Aet#s goB! 8ase II7 I am already out
on a walk. $ou see me and en0uire as to my planned route. !I#ll come with youB! you say. I am not altogether
pleased aout this ut I don#t demur. "e set off. 1he first case involves an informal agreement etween the parties.
"hat happens in the second case may not amount to an agreement e%actly. ?onetheless the relevant understanding
can e thus estalished.
My suggestion aout the ultimate asis for this understanding, in general terms, is this7 each has e%pressed to the
other his or her willingness to e parties to a joint commitment with a certain content. In 8ase I, we will e jointly
committed at a minimum to walk up =ifth (venue to 8entral Park in close pro%imity. It will not e acceptale for
you suddenly to reak away without checking with me first, nor will it e acceptale for you to walk five yards
ahead of me, and so on . . . unless we estalish a special understanding that that is how we shall proceed.
(s I understand it, all that is necessary to estalish what I call a !joint commitment! is that the relevant parties
mutually e%press their readiness to e so committed, in conditions of common knowledge. 1he common
knowledge condition means that the e%istence of these e%pressions must e !out in the open! etween the parties.
=or instance, it is not enough for me to mutter my proposal so softly that you can#t possily hear.9D:
2nce we have e%pressed ourselves in conditions of common knowledge, the joint commitment is in place. But
what does this mean? (mong other things, each of us is now suject to a commitment that he or she cannot
unilaterally remove. More could e said aout the nature of joint commitment ut for present purposes this should
e enough.9<:
I elieve that the concept of joint commitment is a fundamental social concept..perhaps it is the fundamental social
concept. Its function, if you will, is to estalish a set of oligations and entitlements etween individual persons to
estalish a special !tie! or !ond! etween them.
In 2n *ocial =acts I referred to those who were parties to joint commitments as memers of a !plural suject,! for
what the joint commitment creates is, in effect, a single center of action made up of a plurality of persons. 1heir
commitment inds them together in the service of a single !cause,! such as walking up to 8entral Park in close
pro%imity to one another. &(s I shall e%plain, Caction# and Ccause# here have to e understood in a wide sense.'
Aet me now make a few further points aout the concept of a plural suject in my sense. 1his will make it clear
that the range of this concept is 0uite wide7 there can e plural sujects of many different kinds.
=irst, though people can apparently end up going on a walk together without e%actly agreeing to do so, it may
seem that they can only do so if they go through a !datale! process much like the making of an e%plicit
agreement. If joint commitments &and hence plural sujects' can only e formed in this way, it may seem that they
cannot underpin such things as social practices or institutions, whose eginnings are not plausily thought of in
this manner.
In order to defuse this concern, I shall appeal to another humdrum imaginary story. *uppose that you and I find
ourselves standing together on the sidewalk after a meeting of the *ociety for Philosophy and Pulic (ffairs. "e
decide to go out for a coffee, which we do, efore going our separate ways. (fter the ne%t meeting, you ask if I#d
like to go for a coffee. 1hough you don#t e%plicitly allude to the previous occasion, you clearly do not feel
presumptuous and suppose that I might well accept. In the event, I do. If this happens one or more times, one can
e%pect a tacit understanding to grow up to the effect that !we are jointly committed to our going out for a coffee
together after the Philosophy and Pulic (ffairs meetings.! If on the fifth occasion you come up to me and say
!I#m afraid I won#t e ale to have coffee tonight, . . . ! e%pecting my sympathetic concurrence, you indicate that
you understand that there is a joint commitment, so you need to come to me and reach a mutual accord aout your
non.conformity. 2therwise, you violate an oligation. My responding appropriately would confirm this
understanding.
1his e%ample was intended to show how joint commitments and their attendant oligations can ecome estalished
as a result of a process that is consideraly e%tended in time, and in such a way that it may e hard for the
participants or for anyone else to !date! their estalishment. 1hat is not to say that there is in fact no single point in
time at which the joint commitment in 0uestion was finally estalished. But the sutle kinds of communication that
may e involved are 0uite likely not to e consciously noted y the participants. 1hey will proaly think of their
practice as just having !grown up somehow.!
It is worth oserving that the content of a joint commitment may e 0uite vague. It may ecome more precise..or
more vague..with time. 1hus we may agree to !go for a walk! and only gradually clarify how long we will walk
for or where we will go.
8hange may e e%plicitly negotiated or it may !just happen! in accordance with the sorts of sutle
communications just mentioned. 1hus I may egin to feel that I would rather stop having coffee with you after the
meetings. (fter I have rought a numer of e%cuses to you on successive occasions, you wave me goodye at the
end of a meeting and I wave ack heartily. (t this point our joint commitment may e deemed to have ended. "e
may still constitute a plural suject.we may still e friends.ut the character of that plural suject will have
changed.
1wo further points aout plural sujects are relevant here. 1here is reason to suppose that the first.person plural
pronoun, Cwe#, has a central sense in which its referent is a &presumed' plural suject. 2ne way of arguing this is to
see that certain rather striking inference patterns involving Cwe# premisses like C"e are looking for )ack# are made
intelligile if we understand there to e an implicit reference to a joint commitment.9,:
2ne aspect of this sense of Cwe# that is of considerale practical importance is that Cwe# can e used in an initiatory
fashion, as in the utterance C*hall we dance?# said y one stranger to another. If the second person !accepts,! then a
plural suject of a new kind is formed7 the plural suject of dancing together or eing ready to dance.
( final important point aout plural sujects is this. People can form plural sujects not only of acts and practices
involving regularly doing certain things together, ut also of eliefs and attitudes, of principles of action, and so
on.
In relation to elief, people may form a joint commitment to uphold some proposition as a ody. 1hey can then
speak meaningfully of what !we! elieve, in contrast to what !I! elieve and even in contrast to what !you and I
oth personally elieve.! It is this phenomenon that, as I have argued elsewhere, underlies much of our talk of
groups elieving things, of their having attitudes of their own, and so on.9E:
If our vernacular concept of a social group is the concept of a plural suject then it has 0uite a wide range. 1he
memers of a group do not have to e !doing things together! all the time or even prepared to !do things together!
in the normal, narrow sense. 1he group could e sustained essentially y a single elief or credo7 !"e shall
overcome,! for instance, or !"e shall win the war.!
My own analytical memership.argument, then, is this7 social groups are plural sujectsF plural sujects are
constituted y joint commitments which immediately generate oligations. In the ne%t section I riefly defend the
idea that social groups are plural sujects.
/. *ocial Groups
It is, I elieve, 0uite plausile to argue that at least one vernacular concept of a social group is well analy3ed in
terms of plural sujecthood. 1hree reasons for thinking this are as follows7 =irst, if we consider the lists
sociologists give, typical cases of standard memers of these lists do seem to constitute plural sujects of one kind
or another. *econd, people often descrie what it is like to e in a group using such terms as Cunion# Cunity#
Ccommunion# Ccommunity# and, indeed, in terms of constraints and claustrophoia. 8learly, group memership is
e%perienced as something conse0uential, something which has its effects on the individual psyche, something
involving a special tie or constraint. 1hird, the pronoun Cwe# is very comfortaly used y their memers to refer to
!identified! social groups such as families, tries, and so on, and it can e argued to refer, in one central sense at
least, to plural sujects in general.9+:
Houtless different people use the phrase Csocial group# in different ways. 1hus people occasionally refer to
various populations that are not plural sujects in my sense as social groups, and to their memers as group
memers. *ome may speak of the population of women in this way, for instance. *ome may ring economic
classes into their lists of social groups or refer to them in giving e%amples of groups and group properties.
&(nthony Iuinton does this in his article !*ocial 2jects,! for instance.'
1hen there is the assumption I attriuted to *immons, that those who live within the !effective domain! of a
government are memers of a social group. 8learly such people may not form a plural suject. *ome of them may
e unaware of the very e%istence of the government &a point that *immons seems to stress'. (s *immons puts it,
these are !passive! as opposed to !active! memers, ut he apparently regards them as memers in any case..if not
!fully.fledged! ones.
?onetheless, as I have indicated, there is reason to associate a central concept of a social group with that of a plural
suject, and hence to associate group memership in the relevant sense with oligation.
?ow, at the end of the day, what is most important for my own approach to the prolem of political oligation is
the concept of a plural suject itself. "hat is important is that this concept is apparently a common one. "e
operate with it at the humdrum &ut asic' levels of going for walks, engaging in conversation, living through
department meetings, and so on. It is a concept that pervades our daily lives.
"ith this lengthy preamle I shall now return to *immons#s and my own concern aout political oligation.
D. Group Memership and Political 2ligation
My general line on the prolem of political oligation with which I am concerned should already e apparent.
>ecall that the prolem was this7 many people apparently have a sense that they have !political onds,! that they
are !tied in a special way to their governments! or !ound to support their country#s political institutions and oey
its laws.! &1hese descriptions all come from *immons.' "hat is the presumed source of the supposed political
onds?
I mentioned earlier that it seemed to me est to drop from our en0uiry any special restriction to !moral! onds,
whatever precisely these are. It is enough that many people feel that they are tied, ound, or oligated in the
relevant ways. "hat might e the presumed source of the oligation? It is in any case natural enough to e%press
the thoughts at issue without using the term Cmoral#..in his discussion *immons does this many times. If we drop
this concern with specifically moral onds, it leaves us freer to look around and see where and why we actually
sense ties and oligations in our lives.
8learly I am going to suggest that when someone refers to a certain country as !our country! or to a government as
!our government! she may well e speaking in the !plural suject! mode7 that is, there may well e a sense of joint
commitment ehind her use of such language. If she is indeed speaking in this mode, then we will e%pect her to
have an accompanying sense of oligation. "hether or not all memership in social groups or memership !in the
full sense! is always a matter of plural sujecthood and joint commitment is therefore ultimately not crucial here.
1he main thing is that the plural suject concept could e in play, and, y the look of things, it is.
(s I have already indicated, it may e a mistake to press for too precise an answer to the 0uestion !"hat is the
content of the relevant commitment?! 2ne fairly minimal candidate with respect to the phrase Cour government#
would presumaly e something like this7 Cwe jointly accept that that ody may make and enforce edicts
throughout this territory#.916:
*uppose, then, that generally speaking when people refer to !our government,! !our country,! and the like, they do
take themselves to e party to a joint commitment of the relevant sort, and hence to e oligated in the appropriate
ways. 1here does of course remain a relevant 0uestion of justification7 could their taking themselves to e jointly
committed in this way e well.founded? 8ould the people concerned have reason to elieve that they are indeed
parties to a joint commitment of the kind in 0uestion?
1he following rief remarks must suffice in discussion of this 0uestion here. 1he widespread oserved use of such
phrases as Cour government# and Cour country#, alongside any relevant ehavior, would itself appear to provide a
asis for common knowledge in a population that a sustantial portion of its memers have openly e%pressed their
willingness jointly to commit in the relevant way.
In such a conte%t it may e reasonale for those who use these phrases to see themselves as jointly committed with
all those others who also use such language..whoever precisely they are. 1his could e the reason people do
elieve or !feel! that they have a special tie to their own government or their own country7 they are indeed aware
of the proliferation of the relevant speech and action in the relevant population. If this is so, then contrary to
*immons#s conclusion in his ook, there will e aout as much political oligation as there would appear to e
from the way people talk.
<. 8oncluding >emarks
1here is nothing in what I have said so far that implies that there are any governments or political institutions that
deserve communal support. 1hat 0uestion goes eyond the scope of this paper. *o do many of the 0uestions to e
found in the literature under the ruric of the prolem of political oligation. Hoes one have some sort of
oligation or duty to support all just governments? Hoes receipt of enefits oligate in some way? Ho I owe
whichever government it was a det of gratitude for educating me and providing various forms of welfare
services? Is there always something to e said for shoring up the present government, given that anarchy is the
likely alternative? I shall not address these 0uestions here.
2ne thing is clear, however. It is very easy to slip into the !plural suject! mode of endorsement of governments
and other institutions in the countries in which we are long.term residents. It is very easy to go along with others
who think in this mode, given a natural tendency to constitute some kind of group, and, of course, given the
pressure from others to do so. Insofar as onds or ties inevitaly ensue, we would do well to make the details of
our joint commitments as conscious as possile.
1hus we would do well to ask ourselves individually and collectively such 0uestions as7 is it good to e ready to
defend with these others the 8onstitution of the ;nited *tates? Is it good to e ready to support the duly elected
government in this country? Is it good to commit to aiding y every single law on all occasions? 4ow much free
play is it good to reserve for ourselves?
In matters of state politics as in matters of personal relationships, such issues re0uire serious attention. 1hus I in no
way urge unreflective commitment. 2n the contrary, that is all too easy to come y, and should e challenged, and
ecome..if we were eing reasonale all along..reflective commitment.
I have argued that to e a memer of a plural suject of a certain sort is to have !political onds.! Plural sujects,
as I define these, are constituted y joint commitments. 1he oligations that flow from such commitments are
analogous to those that flow from common or garden agreements.911: 1hus I have given a sort of !actual contract!
theory of &a certain type of' political oligation.
?ow such theories have een much critici3ed. *immons, for instance, rejects any such theory on the grounds that
few people anywhere have a consent.ased oligation to support a government. 1here are other writers more
sympathetic to actual contract theory. 2ne such theorist is Michael "al3er, and there are passages in "al3er#s
ook 2ligations, for instance, in which he says things that sound 0uite similar to what I say here. 4e sees a form
of commitment as asic. (nd he implies that what he refers to as !consent! can e given in sutle ways, without
the need for e%plicit agreements datale y the participants.
In any case, oth those who endorse some form of actual contract theory and those who do not assume that the
oligations in 0uestion only arise or have any real force when the commitment is entered into freely in a strong
sense7 coercive circumstances preclude genuine consent, and hence preclude political oligations. 1hus,
summari3ing his position "al3er writes !8ivil lierty of the most e%tensive sort is, therefore, the necessary
condition of political oligation! &p. %iv'.
I would put my own position 0uite differently. (s far as I can see, coercive circumstances do not preclude political
oligations in the sense delineated here. 8oercive circumstances need not prevent me from entering into a joint
commitment. If I am a party to such a commitment I am oligated and that is that. 1hat is not to say that I may not
suse0uently have good reason to reak my commitment and violate my oligation. I may or I may not. But the
oligation is as real as the commitment is, and commitment can e full and complete in coercive conditions. I have
argued that at length elsewhere. 4ere I must perforce close with that ald pronouncement.915:
?21@*
91: 1his paper stems from work in progress on a monograph on political oligation. (n earlier version was
presented as an invited talk to the *ociety for Philosophy and Pulic (ffairs at ?ew $ork ;niversity, =eruary 15,
1++5. I thank those present for their comments.
95: I discuss the sceptical parado% that *aul Jripke attriutes to "ittgenstein in Gilert, 1+E+, ch. -.
9-: 1he main reference is Gilert, 1+E+.
9/: I argue that there are two radically different types of oligation in Gilert, ms.
9D: In some conte%ts the mutual e%pressions of willingness can e made in a 0uite sutle manner. =or e%ample,
suppose four of my colleagues are intently discussing a philosophical prolem in the corridor. I come up to them,
listen, and then interject a remark. 1hey need do little more than un0uestioningly treat my comment as part of the
conversation in order that I ecome party to their joint commitment to converse. 1his oservation was prompted
y a comment from >oger Aee. *ee also the coffee after.the.talk story elow.
9<: =or further discussion see Gilert, 1+E+, 1++H, and 1++-.
9,: It seems that I can make an inference from, say, &1' !"e are trying to stop 4arry crying! and &5' !I can stop
4arry crying y putting on some rock music! to &-' !I have reason to put on some rock music.! "hat is important
aout this is that there appears to e no suppressed or implicit premise to the effect that I personally want 4arry to
stop crying. Perhaps I personally would rather that he went on crying. ?onetheless I seem already to have reason
to put on the music just ecause of what we are trying to do. 2ne way the apparent acceptaility of this inference
can e e%plained is y reference to my eing jointly committed to whatever we are trying to do. If such a
commitment is assumed, the inference proceeds appropriately. "ilfrid *ellars noted this special type of inference
in the early si%ties &see for instance *ellars, 1+<-'. I put forward the hypothesis that a joint commitment is
presupposed in Gilert, 1+E+, ch. ,.
9E: *ee Gilert, 1+E,F 1+E+, ch. D.
9+: =or a fuller discussion see Gilert, 1+E+, ch. /.
916: 1his particular joint commitment has one rather interesting aspect. Given that I am party to the commitment, I
have not oviously committed myself to oey the edicts of the ody in 0uestion.
911: =or more on the relationship etween agreements and joint commitment see Gilert, 1+E+, pp. -E1.E5, /1<,
and elsewhere, and &for a more careful discussion' Gilert, 1++-.
915: =or a detailed discussion of this point see Gilert, 1++-.
BIBAI2G>(P4$
Margaret Gilert, 1+E,, !Modelling 8ollective Belief,! *ynthese, vol. ,-.
Margaret Gilert, 1+E+ 91++5:, 2n *ocial =acts, >outledge7 Aondon and ?ew $ork 95nd printing, Princeton
;niversity Press7 Princeton:
Margaret Gilert, 1++6, !"alking 1ogether7 ( Paradigmatic *ocial Phenomenon,! Midwest *tudies in Philosophy,
vol. 1D, ;niversity of ?otre Hame Press7 ?otre Hame.
Margaret Gilert, !(greements, 8oercion, and 2ligation! &1++-', @thics, vol. 16-.
1homas McPherson, 1+<,, Political 2ligation, >outledge and Jegan Paul7 Aondon.
(nthony Iuinton, 1+,D, !*ocial 2jects,! Proceedings of the (ristotelian *ociety, vol. ,D.
"ilfrid *ellars, 1+<-, !Imperatives, Intentions, and the Aogic of #2ught# ! in G. ?akhnikian and 4..?. 8astaneda
&eds.', Morality and the Aanguage of 8onduct, "ayne *tate ;niversity Press7 Hetroit.
(. )ohn *immons, 1+,+, Moral Principles and Political 2ligations, Princeton ;niversity Press7 Princeton.
Michael "al3er, 1+E5, 2ligations, 8amridge, M(7 8amridge ;niversity Press. 4arvard.
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By Margaret Gilert ;niversity of 8onnecticut
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