Genealogy of collective intentionality

Max Scheler and Michael Tomasello


  • Jaromir Brejdak



collective intentionality; emotional intentionality; values; phenomenology of community; evolutionary psychology; Max Scheler; Michael Tomassello


The present paper attempts to look at on the genealogy of both shared intentionality and collective intentionality, comparing Michael Tomasello’s concept with Max Scheler’s threedimensional concept of intentionality: ens amans, ens volens, ens cogitans, as affective, conative, and cognitive intentionality. I focus on various forms of affective collective intentionality — Schelerian forms of sympathy — to show collective subjectivity from the whole spectrum of emotional intentionality, presented by Scheler’s example of parents standing over the corpse of a child. Even though Tomasello’s works seem to empirically corroborate Scheler’s intuitions about the emotional genealogy of collective intentionality, they will differ in the horizons within they locate intentionality. In the case of the evolutionary psychology of Tomasello, we can talk about the horizon of cooperation, in the case of Scheler’s Scheler’s phenomenology of acts about the horizon of responsibility or co-responsibility, which gives intentionality its unique character. The similarities of both concepts concern the following pillars: 1) genealogy of intentionality covering the dimension of affective intentionality, conative intentionality, and the level of cognitive intentionality; 2) Imitation or, as Scheler would say, following someone. Because a person is recognized by the author of Formalism as an act, or a bundle of acts, the way to understanding and communication with another person is the maieutic coperformance of their acts — i.e., imitation. The maieutic co-execution of acts of others triggers the constitution process of a person, both on an individual and community level. We can speak, in the case of Tomasello, about the ontho- and sociogenetic function of co-executing acts or imitating; however, in the case of Scheler, we are dealing with the clearly axiological nature of such a constitution of both the individual and collective subjectivity (axiological ego, axiological communio); 3) collaborative engagement as a driving force behind collective intentionality in one case in form of co-responsibility, a nature of a collective person (Scheler); in the other case in form of collaboration developing intentionality to various units of community life (Tomasello).