Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

Ontology of Collective Intentionality from a Phenomenological Point of View

Marco di Feo

Thursday 2 December 2021

00:00 - 09:40

Zoom 1-1

The Husserlian notion of intentionality expresses the fundamental correlation between the subject and the experienced object. Everything exists as a perceptible, knowable, thinkable, intuitable, appreciable (or deplorable), and predictable phenomenon by means of this correlation. In a realistic framework, intentionality lets conscious subjectivity be in the presence of the thing itself through several kinds of acts (perceptive, cognitive, linguistic, intuitive, etc.). In every intentional act we find a fundamental structure, which is composed of three intrinsically connected parts: the noetic pole (the subject), the intentional modality (the act), and the noematic pole (the object). In general, the notion of collective intentionality imposes the following question: what kind of consciousness occupies the place of the subject? Through a preliminary analysis and comparison between different types of intentionality (individual, intersubjective, and collective), I intend to demonstrate that collective intentionality can belong to individual subjects to the extent, to which they are members of a collective. The basic ontological argument shows that the status of a member is rooted in a normative web (obligations and rights) that places subjects in a mutual non-independence condition. The condition of social non-independence configures a real ontological positioning (status) that, in turn, motivates and establishes a particular and corresponding intentional positioning. We-intentions are not mere psycho-physical or mental faculties, merely subjective and arbitrary, but modes of correlation with reality that are rooted in the ontological-social positioning of the subject. The “we” (pronounced, experienced, felt, etc., by two or more subjects) that, for example, intends the content “to go to the cinema together” is not the result of concordant, but disjointed intentional acts. On the contrary, it is the result of co-dependent intentional acts, which are such in accordance with the co-dependent ontological relationships between the members of the collective. In summary: if there is a correlation between the ontological condition of the subject and his/her intentional attitude, and if the social bonds establish a particular ontological-social positioning, then collective intentionality can be conceived of as a particular intentional modality, which only belongs to a subject that is really (ontologically) part of a collective. Therefore, if, on the one hand, it is right to maintain that collectives do not really have the ability to think, feel, and act, it is, on the other hand, ontologically legitimate to affirm that we-intentions, we-feelings, we-acts take a position in the world by means of collective subjects. Therefore, the constitution of collective noetic poles does not depend on noematic poles or particular modal configurations that intentional acts can receive in different situations. Everything we think, desire, feel, etc., in the intentional form of the “we” is properly and originally given to us as such, because there is an ontologically founded “we” that intends it.