© 2011, Dustin Bishop


The first part of this paper discusses the two primary theories that have attempted to provide groups with moral status. By examining their respective methods for assigning moral rights to a group, I elucidate problems in both accounts, showing them insufficient in their attempt to defend group ethics. The corporate account establishes a group identity entirely separable from the identities of its individuals. However, this allows the rights of the individuals to clash with those of the group. The collective account asserts that the group identity, and the only source of a group’s moral status, lies in the sum of the rights of its members, creating a group-as-a-whole. This, however, poses the practical problem of changing numbers within a group, and shifts in membership. I introduce my own group identity theory, the extension account, which provides the possibility of a group that can hold rights by virtue of its being made of autonomous individuals who all bear moral standing and are subject to the moral responsibilities relevant to their membership within the group. The extension account establishes an identity of the group-itself, separate from its members, but the origin of its moral status is extended directly from the individuals who comprise it.

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