Group belief and direction of fit

Jessica A. Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

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We standardly attribute beliefs to both individuals and organised groups, such as governments, corporations and universities. Just as we might say that an individual believes something, for instance that oil prices are rising, so we might say that a government or corporation does. If groups are to genuinely have beliefs, then they need states with the characteristic features of beliefs. One feature standardly taken to characterise beliefs is their mind to world direction of fit: they should fit the way the world is. By contrast, desires are standardly taken to have a world to mind direction of fit: they aim for the world to be a certain way and are satisfied when the world fits them. Recently, Lackey (2021) has appealed to direction of fit to argue against certain nonsummative accounts of group belief. Here, I argue that on deeper inspection, belief’s mind to world direction of fit is difficult to accommodate on summative accounts of group belief including Lackey’s own neo-summative account. Further, I argue that direction of fit considerations in fact motivate the main non-summative approaches to belief, namely functionalism and interpretationism. Along the way, we see how addressing the issue of the direction of fit of group beliefs raises important questions about how to understand group evidence and its relationship to the evidence of members.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3161-3178
Number of pages18
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Early online date11 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • Group epistemology
  • Group evidence
  • Group belief
  • Group justified belief


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