What happens to our conception of mind and rational agency when we take seriously future-directed intentions and plans and their roles as inputs into further practical reasoning? The author's initial efforts in responding to this question resulted in a series of papers that he wrote during the early 1980s. In this book, Bratman develops further some of the main themes of these essays and also explores a variety of related ideas and issues. He develops a planning theory of intention. Intentions (...) are treated as elements of partial plans of action. These plans play basic roles in practical reasoning, roles that support the organization of our activities over time and socially. Bratman explores the impact of this approach on a wide range of issues, including the relation between intention and intentional action, and the distinction between intended and expected effects of what one intends. (shrink)
This collection of essays by one of the most prominent and internationally respected philosophers of action theory is concerned with deepening our understanding of the notion of intention. In Bratman's view, when we settle on a plan for action we are committing ourselves to future conduct in ways that help support important forms of coordination and organization both within the life of the agent and interpersonally. These essays enrich that account of commitment involved in intending, and explore its implications for (...) our understanding of temptation and self-control, shared intention and shared cooperative activity, and moral responsibility. The essays offer extensive discussions of related views by, among others, Donald Davidson, Hector-Neri Castañeda, Christine Korsgaard, Harry Frankfurt, and P. F. Strawson. This collection will be a valuable resource for a wide range of philosophers and their students. (shrink)
This is a collection of published and unpublished essays by distinguished philosopher Michael E. Bratman of Stanford University. They revolve around his influential theory, know as the "planning theory of intention and agency." Bratman's primary concern is with what he calls "strong" forms of human agency--including forms of human agency that are the target of our talk about self-determination, self-government, and autonomy. These essays are unified and cohesive in theme, and will be of interest to philosophers in ethics and metaphysics.
Human beings act together in characteristic ways that matter to us a great deal. This book explores the conceptual, metaphysical and normative foundations of such sociality. It argues that appeal to the planning structures involved in our individual, temporally extended agency provides substantial resources for understanding these foundations of our sociality.
Cases of modest sociality are cases of small scale shared intentional agency in the absence of asymmetric authority relations. I seek a conceptual framework that adequately supports our theorizing about such modest sociality. I want to understand what in the world constitutes such modest sociality. I seek an understanding of the kinds of normativity that are central to modest sociality. And throughout we need to keep track of the relations—conceptual, metaphysical, normative—between individual agency and modest sociality. In pursuit of these (...) theoretical aims, I propose that a central phenomenon is shared intention. I argue that an adequate understanding of the distinctiveness of the intentions of individuals allows us to provide a construction of attitudes of the participants, and of relevant inter-relations and contexts that constitutes shared intention. I explain how shared intention, so understood, differs from a simple equilibrium within common knowledge. And I briefly contrast my views with aspects of views of John Searle and Margaret Gilbert. (shrink)
Human beings act together in characteristic ways. Forms of shared activity matter to us a great deal, both intrinsically – think of friendship and love, singing duets, and the joys of conversation -- and instrumentally – think of how we frequently manage to work together to achieve complex goals. My focus will be on activities of small, adult groups in the absence of asymmetric authority relations within those groups. My approach begins with an underlying model of individual planning agency, and (...) then seeks a conceptual and metaphysical bridge from such individual planning agency to modest forms of sociality. (shrink)
Two approaches to instrumental rationality Suppose I intend end E, believe that a necessary means to E is M, and believe that M requires that I intend M. My attitudes concerning E and M engage a basic requirement of practical rationality, a requirement that, barring a change in my cited beliefs, I either intend M or give up intending E.2 Call this the Instrumental Rationality requirement – for short, the IR requirement.
You can sometimes have and be moved by desires which you in some sense disown. The problem is whether we can make sense of these ideas of---as I will say---ownership and rejection of a desire, without appeal to a little person in the head who is looking on at the workings of her desires and giving the nod to some but not to others. Frankfurt's proposed solution to this problem, sketched in his 1971 article, has come to be called the (...) hierarchical model. Indeed, it seems that, normally, if an agent's relevant higher-order attitudes are not to some extent shaped by her evaluative reflections and judgments her agency will be flawed. But this suggests a Platonic challenge to the hierarchical account of ownership. The challenge is to explain why we should not see such evaluative judgments---rather than broadly Frankfurtian higher-order attitudes---as the fundamental basis of ownership or rejection of desire. I do think that a systematic absence of connection between higher-order Frankfurtian attitude and evaluative judgment would be a breakdown in proper functioning. But I want to explain how we can grant this point and still block the Platonic challenge. (shrink)
Suppose you resolve now to resist an expected temptation later while knowing that once the temptation arrives your preference or evaluative assessment will shift in favor of that temptation. Are there defensible norms of rational planning agency that support sticking with your prior intention in the face of such a shift at the time of temptation and in the absence of relevant new information? This article defends the idea that it might be rational to stick with your prior intention in (...) part because of your anticipation of regret in the further future if you were to give in to the temptation. It does this by appeal to the significance of anticipated future regret to the agent ’s present standpoint, and to the role of the agent ’s standpoint in her self-governance. (shrink)
I consider two inter-related problems in the philosophy of action. One concerns the role of the agent in the determination of action, and I call it the problem of agential authority. The other concerns the relation between motivating desire and the agent's normative deliberation, and I call it the problem of subjective normative authority. In part by way of discussion of work of Harry Frankfurt and Christine Korsgaard, I argue that we make progress with these problems by appeal to certain (...) kinds of higher-order policies and to their role in the cross-temporal organization of the deliberation and action of temporally persisting agents like us. (shrink)
I [try] to understand identification by appeal to phenomena of deciding to treat, and of treating, a desire of one's as reason-giving in one's practical reasoning, planning, and action. Is identification, so understood, "fundamental," as Frankfurt says, "to any philosophy of mind and of action"? Well, we have seen reason to include in our model of intentional agency such phenomena of deciding to treat, and of treating, certain of one's desires as reason-giving. Identification, at bottom, consists in such phenomena — (...) or so I have proposed. Given that such phenomena are important in our practical lives, we may agree with Frankfurt that identification is, in this sense, "fundamental.". (shrink)
In autonomous action the agent herself directs and governs the action. But what is it for the agent herself to direct and to govern? One theme in a series of articles by Harry G. Frankfurt is that we can make progress in answering this question by appeal to higher-order conative attitudes. Frankfurt's original version of this idea is that in acting of one's own free will, one is not acting simply because one desires so to act. Rather, it is also (...) true that this desire motivates one's action because one desires that this desire motivate one's action. This latter desire about the motivational role of one's desire is a second-order desire. It is, in particular, what Frankfurt calls a second-order “volition.” And, according to Frankfurt's original proposal, acting of one's own free will involves in this way such second-order, and sometimes yet higher order, volitions. (shrink)
In "Action and Responsibility,'' Joel Feinberg pointed to an important idea to which he gave the label "the accordion effect.'' Feinberg's discussion of this idea is of interest on its own, but it is also of interest because of its interaction with his critique, in his "Causing Voluntary Actions,'' of a much discussed view of H. L. A. Hart and A. M. Honoré that Feinberg labels the "voluntary intervention principle.'' In this essay I reflect on what the accordion effect is (...) supposed by Feinberg to be, on differences between Feinberg's understanding of this idea and that of Donald Davidson, and on the interaction between Feinberg's discussion of the accordion effect and his critique of the voluntary intervention principle. (shrink)
There is thinking, conducted by a single person, about how to live. And there is thinking together– a kind of “language infused”(5) shared activity – about how to live together. In the first of these fascinating and deeply probing Tanner Lectures Allan Gibbard is concerned with both of these phenomena and with how they interact.
The practical thought of planning agents is subject to distinctive rationality norms. In particular, there are norms of intention consistency and of means-end coherence. I discuss the normative significance of these norms and their relation to practical reasons. I seek a path between views that see these norms as, at bottom, norms of theoretical rationality, and views that see the idea that these norms have distinctive normative significance as a 'myth'. And I seek to distinguish these norms from principles about (...) the transmission of practical reasons. In the end, my view draws on claims about what is involved in being a self-governing planning agent. (shrink)
These are replies to the discussions by Kirk Ludwig, Elizabeth Pacherie, Björn Petersson, Abraham Roth, and Thomas Smith of Michael E. Bratman, Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together (Oxford University Press, 2014).
In a case of weak-willed action the agent acts-freely, deliberately, and for a reason-in a way contrary to his best judgment, even though he thinks he could act in accordance with his best judgment. The possibility of such actions has posed one problem in moral philosophy, the exact nature of the problem it poses another. In this essay I offer an answer to the latter problem: an explanation of why a plausible account of free, deliberate and purposive action seems to (...) preclude the possibility of weak-willed action. I then try to resolve the first problem by developing this account in a way which allows for this possibility. The possibility of weak-willed action is made problematic by an account which sees free, deliberate and purposive action as involving the conclusion of a piece of practical reasoning. Solving the problem does not require us to abandon this conception but, rather, to notice certain special features of the relation between premises and conclusion in such reasoning. (shrink)
I sketch my general model of the roles of intentions in the planning of agents like us-agents with substantial resource limitations and with important needs for coordination. I then focus on the stability of prior intentions: their rational resistance to reconsideration. I emphasize the importance of cases in which one's nonreconsideration of a prior intention is nondeliberative and is grounded in relevant habits of reconsideration. Concerning such cases I argue for a limited form of two-tier consequentialism, one that is restricted (...) in ways that aim at blocking an analogue of Smart's concerns about rule-worship. I contrast this with the unrestricted two-tier consequentialism suggested by McClennen. I argue that my restricted approach is superior for a theory of the practical rationality of reflective, planning agents like us. But I also conjecture that an unrestricted two-tier consequentialism may be more appropriate for the AI project of specifying a high level architecture for a resource-bounded planner. (shrink)
‘The idea that there are standards of practical reason apart from or independent of good character,’ Kieran Setiya trenchantly argues, ‘is a philosophical mirage’. 1 Setiya's argument in this fine book is a striking blend of philosophy of action and normative philosophy. A central claim is that the intention is a special kind of belief. I want both to challenge that claim and to reflect on a subtle argument in its favour that is in the background.1.Practical thinking, as understood by (...) Setiya, includes the thinking that is involved in ‘the motivation of action done for reasons …, the balancing of reasons …, and the forming and revising of intentions and desires’ . Dispositions of practical thinking are traits of character. So, we can evaluate a given disposition of practical thought by appealing to general standards of good character and asking whether that disposition of practical thought is good as a trait of character. The ‘Virtue Theory’ says that all standards of practical reason are, at bottom, the reflection of standards of good traits of character as those standards of good character are applied to, in particular, dispositions of practical thinking.What Setiya calls ‘rationalism’ is a theoretical alternative to the Virtue Theory. The idea is to find certain features of practical thinking that are essential to intentional agency, and then to show that these essential modes of practical thinking, without further appeal to general standards of good character, support standards of practical reason that apply to all cases of intentional agency.To assess such rationalism, we need a theory of intentional agency and of the practical thinking that is essential to it. According to Setiya, this theory will need to …. (shrink)
We are planning agents and we are, or so we suppose, responsible agents. How are these two distinctive aspects of our agency related? In his "Freedom and Resentment" Peter Strawson understands responsible agency in terms of "reactive attitudes" like resentment and gratitude, attitudes which are normally embedded in "ordinary inter-personal relationships." I draw on Strawson''s account to sketch an answer to my question about responsibility and planning. First, the fact that an action is plan-embedded can influence the agent''s degree of (...) culpability for that action; for such embeddings can constitute or indicate important facts about the quality of the agent''s will. Second, general planning incapacities can to some extent exempt an agent from normal judgments of responsibility. My argument for this second claim appeals to the normal roles of planning in "ordinary inter-personal relationships.". (shrink)