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Shared Intention and Reasons for Action/ Philosophy of the Social Sciences (2015)

Shared Intention and Reasons for Action/ Philosophy of the Social Sciences (2015)
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  Philosophy of the Social Sciences 1  –28© The Author(s) 2015Reprints and DOI: 10.1177/ 1  This is not to suggest that all theories of intentional action are broadly Davidsonian. Rather, I take it that teleological theories (Sehon 2005; Wilson 1989), constitutivist views (Korsgaard 2008, 13; Velleman 2000), volitional views (Ginet 1990; Wallace 2006a, 2006b), planning theories (Bratman 1993, 1999, 2007a, 2007b) as well as “guidance” views (Frankfurt 1978, [1971] 1998a; Hornsby 2004) all agree that acting for reasons  figures in but does not exhaust   the essential features of paradigmatic instances of agency.  Article Shared Intention and Reasons for Action Caroline T. Arruda 1 Abstract Most theories of intentional action agree that if acting for a reason is a necessary condition for the action in question to be an intentional action, the reason need not genuinely justify it. The same should hold for shared intentional action, toward which philosophers of action have recently turned their attention. I argue that some of the necessary conditions proposed for shared intention turn out to require that we deny this claim. They entail that shared intention is possible only if the participating agents form their intentions on the grounds of genuinely rational considerations. Thus, they “over-rationalize,” as I call it, shared intention. Keywords shared intention, reasons for action, explanatory reasons, justifying reasons Many theories of intentional action, their differences aside, 1  agree on the fol-lowing basic claim: if acting for a reason is a necessary condition for the action in question to be an intentional action, the reason need not genuinely Received 20 April 2015 1 University of Texas at El Paso, TX, USA Corresponding Author: Caroline T. Arruda, Department of Philosophy, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968, USA. Email: POS XXX10.1177/0048393115608945Philosophy of theSocial Sciences Arruda research-article 2015  at University of Texas at El Paso on October 12, 2015pos.sagepub.comDownloaded from   2  Philosophy of the Social Sciences 2  One thinks here of Davidson’s ([1963] 2001) causal theory of action, but it need not  be the case that one favors this view to think that the above claim is right. 3  For example, Michael Bratman (1993, 1999), Margaret Gilbert (1989, 1990, 2000), Philip Pettit (1993, 2003), David Velleman ([1997] 2000), Raimo Tuomela (1991, 1995, 2002) and John Searle (1990), among others. 4  See Bratman (1993, 1999) and Velleman ([1997] 2000). 5  See Gilbert (1989).  justify the action in question. 2  Instead, the reason in question must merely be one that the agent undertaking the action in question understands as her rea-son for acting as such.This requirement is typically (and rightly, I think) thought to be reasonable because whether an action is intentional depends on agents’ respective beliefs that certain considerations justify the formation of the relevant intentions. But these beliefs need not be true as it is not the rea-son itself that serves as the necessary condition for the action to be inten-tional; rather, it is the agent’s relationship with the reason.In recent years, philosophers of action have turned their attention to the  possibility of shared intentional action. 3  This body of work has, in often sig-nificantly different ways, argued that it is possible for individuals to intend together that they act together. 4  In some more radical versions of this argu-ment, 5  philosophers have argued that individuals share an intention by virtue of being the collective subject of the action in question. Most defenses of the claim that shared intention is possible argue that if it is possible for agents to share an intention, their actions are not exclusively their own. A standard example might be the following: Jack and Jill share an intention to turn the  jump rope so that their friend Bill can jump rope just in case Jack and Jill each intend to turn the rope, understand that the successful turning of the rope depends on the other doing his or her (as the case may be) part and each intend that they act together in turning the rope.I agree that shared intention is possible and that it is not simply an instance of individuals’ coordination of their actions. But I will argue that some of the conditions that these accounts propose for shared intention turn out to require that we deny  the following claim: some of the features that make individual intentional actions intentional also serve as necessary conditions for shared intentional action. My aim in this article is thus to diagnose a tendency in accounts of shared intention, even given their respective differences, that leads them to deny the claim just mentioned. By virtue of the common knowl-edge condition that they propose for shared intention, proponents of these accounts turn out to claim—often implicitly—that shared intention is possi- ble only if the participating agents form their intentions on the grounds of genuinely rational considerations. In this sense, they “over-rationalize,” as I will call it, shared intention. The more serious issue is what is entailed by this at University of Texas at El Paso on October 12, 2015pos.sagepub.comDownloaded from    Arruda 3 6  For example, it is often thought to be the case that individuals, in instances of shared intention, should be able to exert the relevant control over their respective (parts of the) intention(s) in question and that they should be able to settle on the course of action in question. For accounts of these claims, see Velleman ([1997] 2000, esp. 204-206) and Bratman (1999, esp. 148-52). I consider these claims in greater detail in Section 1. 7  Often times, joint intention views are taken to explain the possibility of collective intentions, broadly understood. My naming conventions above are not intended to track these claims; rather, they are intended to track those views that take shared intention to be nothing more than joint action among individuals (what I have called claim—namely, that instances of shared intention must be instances of genu-inely rational intentional action, whereas individual intentional actions need not be. The latter, although ideally rational, are typically thought to be inten-tional just in case they involve explanatory, but not necessarily justifying, reasons. The fact that many accounts of shared intention entail that instances of shared intention and individual intention are disanalogous is important. This is because most, if not all, accounts of shared intention assume that much of what holds for individual intentional actions must also hold for shared intentional actions. 6 The plan for the article is as follows. I will begin by establishing that many accounts of shared intention over-rationalize shared intention. I will then argue that this renders these views internally inconsistent, given that they grant that there are compelling conceptual reasons to think that shared inten-tion has a family resemblance with individually held intentions at least with regard to the features that render the action intentional  . Naturally, this family resemblance does not require that shared intentions and individually held intentions are alike in every important way; rather, it requires that they are alike in the ways that we typically think make shared intentions (and thus shared intentional action) and individual intentions (and individual inten-tional action) both types of intentions (and genuine actions). I will conclude  by responding to a set of objections and suggesting one plausible way by which to fix accounts of shared intention in light of this serious, far-reaching  problem. 1. How Accounts of Shared Intention “Over-Rationalize” Accounts of shared intention can be grouped, roughly, into two types of views. I will call these the  joint intention view  and the collective intention view . 7  Both of these views challenge the claim that instances of agents acting at University of Texas at El Paso on October 12, 2015pos.sagepub.comDownloaded from   4  Philosophy of the Social Sciences the  joint intention view ) and those that take these agents to comprise a group agent over and above the participating individual agents (what I have called the collective intention view ). 8  For an example of this view, see Quinton (1975-76, 5-6). Velleman’s ([1997] 2000, esp. 248) account stands somewhere between the coordination view and the joint action view. 9  See (1993, esp. 106; 1999; 2007b; 2009).Also see Tuomela and Miller (1988) and Tuomela (1991, 1995, 2005) for additional examples of this view. 10  Naturally this is not the only feature that distinguishes the two types of accounts,  but it is the feature that highlights their distinct metaphysical commitments regard-ing the existence of irreducibly group or collective subjects of the intentions in question. 11  See Gilbert (1989, 183-99). 12  See also Searle (1990, 1995) for an alternative defense of what I am calling the col-lective intentions view. For a view of shared or collective action that does not require individual agents to individually intend to act together, see Pettit (1993, esp. 165). together can be explained simply by citing the participating individual’s respective coordination with one another. 8  The  joint intention view , which is  best represented by Michael Bratman’s view, 9  suggests that intentions can be shared when participants understand that they individually intend that they together engage in certain actions. The  joint intention view  challenges the claim that shared intentional actions are simply coordinated individual inten-tional actions. Unlike views that take shared intentions to be the product of a group agent, proponents of the  joint intention view  argue that shared inten-tional actions are not undertaken by group agents. 10  Rather, as Bratman (1999, 148-52) and Velleman ([1997] 2000, 206) each suggest, they are under the control of single, individual participating agents rather than under the control of a group agent.The collective intention view  challenges, quite obviously, the claim that these are instances of mere coordination. But it also rejects the  joint inten-tion view  insofar as it claims that the intentions themselves are genuinely shared. Insofar as they are shared, they are under the collective control of the  participants as a group agent. Margaret Gilbert defends this view by arguing that agents involved in actions together understand their actions as the actions of a “we,” or a plural subject. 11  Gilbert does not use the concept “we” to mean “I do my part and you do your part”; rather, she argues that agents’ use of this pronoun constitutes the group agent instead of describing it. 12 My suggestion in this article is that both the  joint intention view  and the collective intention view , notwithstanding their differences, fall prey to the  problem of over-rationalizing shared intention. The problem that I have in mind is that accounts of shared intention implicitly deny that one of at University of Texas at El Paso on October 12, 2015pos.sagepub.comDownloaded from    Arruda 5 13  I am grateful to Deborah Tollefsen for stressing the importance of distinguishing more clearly between shared intention and shared or joint action. Note that both views discussed above are views about the conditions under which intentions , rather than actions , can be shared. Thus, for both views, agents might share intentions but never actually launch the action over which they share control. One might worry here that Assumption 2 runs rough shod over this distinction and, worse yet, is inconsistent with these views’ explananda . For the purposes of this article, I take it to be the case that accounts of shared intention will also entail constraints on accounts of shared intentional action. So talking about what makes a shared intentional action intentional   is just a way of getting at the kinds of intentional states that agents must have for the action, if there is or were to be one, to be a shared intentional one . It is not meant to capture actions that are intentionally done but are not the product of agents’ inten-tional states. 14  This would also hold for intention formation.Note that I take the conditions for intention formation in instances of shared intentional action and the conditions for launching the action to be the same with regard to the question under consideration in this article. 15  In making this assumption, I rely on the Davidsonian causal theory of action, but, as will become apparent, one need not do so to grant the plausibility of this assumption. the features that renders individual actions intentional also makes shared intentional actions intentional. The feature in question is the following: the reasons that motivate agents to φ, on the individual account, need not be genuinely justifying.Although many of these views differ on whether they take the sharing in question to be literal or simply a kind of metaphor for what it means to intend to act with another person, they all assume that many (if not all) of the conditions that make individual instances of action intentional are, at least, necessary conditions for instances of shared action to be inten-tional. I will show that many views of shared intention end up requiring that the reasons for action in the case of shared intention be genuinely justifying ones. Thereby, they implicitly deny the family resemblance between indi-vidual intentional action and shared intentional action. 13  If this is correct, then accounts of shared intention are overly demanding. 1.1. The (Implicit) Guiding Assumptions for Accounts of Shared Intention and Why They Are Plausible Let us start by looking at the assumptions that any theory of shared intention must grant and that most views do grant:Instances of individual intentional action 14  are, most of the time, actions done for reasons, either explanatory or justifying. 15  at University of Texas at El Paso on October 12, 2015pos.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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