Shared intention, reliance, and interpersonal obligations

Ethics 119 (3):444-475 (2009)
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Shared agency is of central importance in our lives in many ways. We enjoy engaging in certain joint activities with others. We also engage in joint activities to achieve complex goals. Current approaches propose that we understand shared agency in terms of the more basic phenomenon of shared intention. However, they have presented two antagonistic views about the nature of this phenomenon. Some have argued that shared intention should be understood as being primarily a structure of attitudes of individual participants and their interrelations (Bratman, Searle, Tuomela and Miller). Others have claimed that shared intention should be regarded as being primarily a normative transaction which gives rise to interpersonal obligations (Gilbert). In contrast to these approaches, I propose a compromise view. I argue that shared intention involves a complex socio-psychological structure which ensures, in the absence of special circumstances, the existence of relevant moral obligations. My argument involves two main steps. First, I show that shared intention includes important relations of mutual reliance between the participants. Then, I argue that the existence of these relations of mutual reliance in shared intention helps us explain why, failing special circumstances, shared intention generates those obligations. This provides, in my view, a solution to the vexed question of the relation between shared intention and interpersonal obligations.



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Facundo M. Alonso
Miami University, Ohio

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