SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Pluralistic Ignorance and Group Belief
(Epistemology, English)

We can ascribe beliefs to groups. Statements like, "The team believes that the market will grow next year", and "The group of friends believes that Berlin is a beautiful city" are meaningful, and useful in everyday situations. While this kind of ascriptions are common, it is not intuitively clear what is the relation between the individual members' beliefs and the group beliefs. The analysis of the concept of group belief, and the explication of the relations between individual members' beliefs and the group belief occupies a lively debate in social epistemology.

Lackey (2021) has argued that the main accounts of group belief that are presented in the contemporary debate cannot be correct, because, in some cases, they do not distinguish group lies (and group bullshits) from group beliefs. Lackey (2021, pp. 48__49) has also introduced a new account of group belief, the Group Agent Account (henceforth GAA).

In my talk, I have two aims. Firstly, I shall argue that the GAA does not yield the correct ascriptions in the cases of pluralistic ignorance where each member of a group privately believes that p but acts, speaks and argues as if she believes that not-p. Following Gilbert (1989) and Bird (2010, 2020), I shall argue that in these cases a good account of group belief should not ascribe to the group the belief that p. In the GAA, it does not matter that the belief held by the operative members be publicly expressed within the group. Consequently, in cases of pluralistic ignorance where condition (2) is satisfied the GAA incorrectly ascribes to the group the belief that p.

Secondly, I shall present an original account of group belief that correctly distinguishes group lies (and bullshits) from group beliefs, and that ascribes the correct group belief in the cases of pluralistic ignorance.

I shall argue that since in my account the ascription of belief depends on the utterances of the members of the group rather than on their private mental state, it correctly deals with cases of pluralistic ignorance. Finally, I shall argue that the two conditions allow my account to correctly distinguish group lies and group bullshits from group beliefs.


Bird, A. (2010). Social Knowing. Philosophical Perspectives, 24, 23-56.

Bird, A. (2020). Group Belief. In: Fricker, M., Graham, P. J., Henderson, D. & Pedersen, N. J. L. L. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. Routledge.

Gilbert, M. (1987). Modelling Collective Belief. Synthese, 73(1), 185-204.

Gilbert, M. (1989). On Social Facts. Princeton University Press.

Lackey, J. (2021). The Epistemology of Groups. Oxford University Press.

Tuomela, R. (1992). Group Beliefs. Synthese, 91(3), 285-318.

Chair: Niklas Gärtner
Time: 15:20-15:50, 07 September 2022 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.003
Remark: (Online Talk)

Filippo Riscica Lizzio 
(University of Hamburg, Germany)

Testability and Meaning deco