Practical knowledge and acting together

In J. Adam Carter, Andy Clark, Jesper Kallestrup, Orestis Palermos & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Socially Extended Knowledge. Oxford University Press. pp. 87-111 (2018)
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According to one influential philosophical view of human agency, for an agent to perform an action intentionally is essentially for her to manifest a kind of self-knowledge: An agent is intentionally φ-ing if and only if she has a special kind of practical and non-observational knowledge that this is what she is doing. I here argue that this self-knowledge view faces serious problems when extended to account for intentional actions performed by several agents together as a result of a joint decision. This suggests that practical and non-observational knowledge is not essential to intentional action as such, since a theory of intentional action ought to be able to make sense of such paradigm cases of joint intentional action as well as cases of singular intentional action. Existing attempts to extend the self-knowledge view to joint intentional action face an unfortunate trilemma. These attempts must (i) require that participants have non-observational knowledge of each other’s non-observational knowledge, which in turn requires that the participants are either really one and the same agent, or that they are, for all relevant purposes, clones of each other; (ii) limit their explanatory scope to intentional actions performed by groups with a single decision maker at the top of an organisational hierarchy, which arguably are not really shared or jointly performed; or (iii) require that the intention of the group is the result of a public representational act that the group members will have observational knowledge of in a way that is incompatible with a core commitment of the self-knowledge view. I argue that each of these options is unacceptable given a self-knowledge view of intentional action.



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Olle Blomberg
University of Gothenburg

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The extended mind.Andy Clark & David J. Chalmers - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):7-19.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Group agency: the possibility, design, and status of corporate agents.Christian List & Philip Pettit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Philip Pettit.

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