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date: 19 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

When a group or institution issues a declarative statement, what sort of speech act is this? Is it the assertion of a single individual (perhaps the group’s spokesperson or leader) or the assertion of all or most of the group members? Or is there a sense in which the group itself asserts that p? If assertion is a speech act, then who is the actor in the case of group assertion? These are the questions this chapter aims to address. Whether groups themselves can make assertions or whether a group of individuals can jointly assert that p depends, in part, on what sort of speech act assertion is. The literature on assertion has burgeoned over the past few years, and there is a great deal of debate regarding the nature of assertion. John MacFarlane has helpfully identified four theories of assertion. Following Sandy Goldberg, we can call these the attitudinal account, the constitutive rule account, the common-ground account, and the commitment account. I shall consider what group assertion might look like under each of these accounts and doing so will help us to examine some of the accounts of group assertion (often presented as theories of group testimony) on offer. I shall argue that, of the four accounts, the commitment account can best be extended to make sense of group assertion in all its various forms.

Keywords: assertion, collective epistemology, group testimony, joint acceptance, speech acts, group speech acts

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