Communal Agency in Josiah Royce
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On the common sense view, an agent is an individual. Communities are collections of individuals, but the community itself is not understood to possess a collective, unified agency. Nevertheless, this view stands at odds with frequent ascriptions of communal agency; e.g., "Oregonians are environmentally conscious," "The team played to win," "The LGBTQ community is pro-gay marriage." If we are to vindicate such ascriptions, we need a theory of the "reality of community," the thesis that under certain conditions, a community possesses a unified, collective agency. This work reconstructs Royce's theory of communal agency through his views of purposiveness and the use he makes of C.S. Peirce's "theory of interpretation." I argue that, for Royce, agency is purposiveness and purposiveness always bears the triadic structure of the process of interpretation. Thus, the process of interpretation entails agency whether at the level of the individual or at the level of the community.