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Topics in Philosophy of Social Reality



Social reality can be viewed as the totality of facts that hold because they are accepted by some relevant collectivity. Understanding collective acceptance is therefore a crucial prerequisite for the comprehension of social reality. In turn, collective acceptance is an aspect of the more general phenomenon of collective intentionality, which is typically involved when we describe a situation by saying “We believe that …”, “We intend to …”, “We did …” and so on. The course aims at analysing the basic structure of collective intentionality, exploring the theories propounded by the main authors active in this area, and understanding the implications of such theories on a view of social reality.


  1. Collective intentionality: Introduction to the topic. Summative and nonsummative accounts.
  2. The Big Four: Raimo Tuomela, Margaret Gilbert, John Searle, Michel Bratman.
  3. Analysis of specific concepts: common belief, shared or collective intentions, joint commitment.


The course will alternate ex-cathedra lessons introducing the different topics and classroom discussions on assigned readings.



The final grade will be mainly based on a 2000-3000 words essay on one of the topics treated in the course (to be agreed with the lecturer). The student’s participation in the classroom discussions will also be taken into account.


Basic readings

Bratman, Michael (1993). Shared intention. Ethics, 104, 97-113.

Gilbert, Margaret (2009). Shared intention and personal intentions. Philosophical Studies, 144, 167-187.

Roth, Abraham Sesshu (2017). Shared agency. In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition).

Schweikard, David P., and Hans Bernhard Schmid (2013). Collective intentionality. In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition).

Searle, John (1990). Collective intentions and actions. In P. Cohen, J. Morgan, and M.E. Pollack (eds.), Intentions in communication, 90-105. Bradford Books/MIT Press.

Tollefsen, Deborah (2004). Collective intentionality. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Tuomela, Raimo (1991). We will do it: An analysis of group intentions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 51, 249-277.

Tuomela, Raimo (2005). We-intentions revisited. Philosophical Studies, 125, 327-69.

Complementary readings

Bratman, Michael (1999). Faces of intention. Cambridge University Press.

Gilbert, Margaret (1989). On social facts. Princeton University Press.

Gilbert, Margaret (2014). Joint commitment: How we make the social worldOxford University Press.

Searle, John (1995). The construction of social reality. The Free Press.

Searle, John (2010). Making the social world: The structure of human civilization. Oxford University Press.



Colombetti M.

Course director

Additional information

Academic year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Elective course, Elective Courses, 1st year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Elective course, Elective Courses, 2nd year