Playing One’s Part

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (2):213-44 (2011)
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Abstract

The consensus in the philosophical literature on joint action is that, sometimes at least, when agents intentionally jointly φ, this is explicable by their intending that they φ, for a period of time prior to their φ-ing. If this be granted, it poses a dilemma. For agents who so intend either severally or jointly intend that they φ. The first option is ruled out by two stipulations that we may consistently make: (i) that at least one of the agents non-akratically believes that, all things considered, the agents ought not to φ, and (ii) that an agent is akratic, if she intends a thing that she believes, all things considered, ought not to be done. But the second option seems to entail the existence of a mental state with multiple subjects, which, in turn, seems to commit us to the existence of a group mind modified by that state: an incautious posit to say the least. I resolve the dilemma by noting that ‘They jointly intend’ is indeterminate between ‘They intend, jointly’, which does indeed entail that some mental state is an intention with multiple subjects, and ‘Jointly, they intend’, which entails a weaker claim, viz. that some mental state or states is an intention with multiple subjects. I then sketch an account of how a plurality of mental states, distributed among subjects, might, collectively, do service as their intention that they φ. It makes novel use of notions of participation and of doing a thing jointly with others. A corollary is that either intentions are not attitudes towards propositions, or propositions are individuated more finely than is often assumed.

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Thomas H. Smith
University of Manchester

References found in this work

Intention, plans, and practical reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Material beings.Peter Van Inwagen - 1990 - Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Material Beings.Peter Van Inwagen - 1990 - Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

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