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. (shrink)
Purpose This paper aims to formalize long-term trajectories of human civilization as a scientific and ethical field of study. The long-term trajectory of human civilization can be defined as the path that human civilization takes during the entire future time period in which human civilization could continue to exist. -/- Design/methodology/approach This paper focuses on four types of trajectories: status quo trajectories, in which human civilization persists in a state broadly similar to its current state into the distant future; catastrophe (...) trajectories, in which one or more events cause significant harm to human civilization; technological transformation trajectories, in which radical technological breakthroughs put human civilization on a fundamentally different course; and astronomical trajectories, in which human civilization expands beyond its home planet and into the accessible portions of the cosmos. -/- Findings Status quo trajectories appear unlikely to persist into the distant future, especially in light of long-term astronomical processes. Several catastrophe, technological transformation and astronomical trajectories appear possible. -/- Originality/value Some current actions may be able to affect the long-term trajectory. Whether these actions should be pursued depends on a mix of empirical and ethical factors. For some ethical frameworks, these actions may be especially important to pursue. (shrink)
It’s commonly held that particular moral facts are explained by ‘natural’ or ‘descriptive’ facts, though there’s disagreement over how such explanations work. We defend the view that general moral principles also play a role in explaining particular moral facts. More specifically, we argue that this view best makes sense of some intuitive data points, including the supervenience of the moral upon the natural. We consider two alternative accounts of the nature and structure of moral principles—’the nomic view’ and ‘moral platonism’—before (...) considering in what sense such principles obtain of necessity. (shrink)
One of the principles on how to act under moral uncertainty, My Favourite Theory, says roughly that a morally conscientious agent chooses an option that is permitted by the most credible moral theory. In defence of this principle, we argue that it prescribes consistent choices over time, without relying on intertheoretic comparisons of value, while its main rivals are either plagued by moral analogues of money pumps or in need of a method for making non-arbitrary intertheoretic comparisons. We rebut the (...) arguments that have been levelled against My Favourite Theory and offer some arguments against intertheoretic comparisons of value. (shrink)
Most reductionist accounts of intentional joint action include a condition that it must be common knowledge between participants that they have certain intentions and beliefs that cause and coordinate the joint action. However, this condition has typically simply been taken for granted rather than argued for. The condition is not necessary for ensuring that participants are jointly responsible for the action in which each participates, nor for ensuring that each treats the others as partners rather than as social tools. It (...) is thus something of a mystery why the condition is so widely accepted. By rejecting three arguments that could potentially support it, I argue that reductionists should get rid of the condition. I show that two of the arguments fail. While the third argument is intuitively compelling, it builds on key premises that are unavailable to the reductionist. (shrink)
In 'Joint Action and Development', Stephen Butterfill argues that if several agents' actions are driven by what he calls a "shared goal"—a certain pattern of goal-relations and expectations—then these actions constitute a joint action. This kind of joint action is sufficiently cognitively undemanding for children to engage in, and therefore has the potential to play a part in fostering their understanding of other minds. Part of the functional role of shared goals is to enable agents to choose means that are (...) appropriate to realising a goal with others rather than individually. By offering a counterexample, I show that the pattern of goal-relations and expectations specified by Butterfill cannot play this role. I then provide an appropriately conceptually and cognitively undemanding amendment with which the account can be saved. (shrink)
According to the standard version of the counterfactual comparative account of harm, an event is overall harmful for an individual if and only if she would have been on balance better off if it had not occurred. This view faces the “preemption problem.” In the recent literature, there are various ingenious attempts to deal with this problem, some of which involve slight additions to, or modifications of, the counterfactual comparative account. We argue, however, that none of these attempts work, and (...) that the preemption problem continues to haunt the counterfactual comparative account. (shrink)
According to a widely accepted constraint on the content of intentions, here called the exclusivity constraint, one cannot intend to perform another agent’s action, even if one might be able to intend that she performs it. For example, while one can intend that one’s guest leaves before midnight, one cannot intend to perform her act of leaving. However, Deborah Tollefsen’s (2005) account of joint activity requires participants to have intentions-in-action (in John Searle’s (1983) sense) that violate this constraint. I argue (...) that the exclusivity constraint should not be accepted as an unconditional constraint on the contents of intentions-in-action: one may intend to perform a basic action that belongs both to oneself and to another agent. Based on the phenomenology of tool use, I first argue that intentions-in-action of one’s basic actions may be technologically extended, meaning that their contents are not restricted to concern the agent’s bodily movements. In analogy with this, I then argue that the phenomenology of some skillful joint activities supports the idea that one’s basic intentions-in-action may be socially extended, in violation of the widely accepted exclusivity constraint. Tollefsen’s account is specifically constructed to account for the joint activities of infants and toddlers who lack the capacity to think of others as planning agents and grasp their plan-like intentions (a capacity required by Michael Bratman’s (1992, 1993, 2009a, b) influential account of joint activity). At the end of the paper, I raise some doubts regarding the extent to which infants and toddlers have socially extended intentions-in-action. (shrink)
According to Kirk Ludwig, only primitive actions are actions in a primary and non-derivative sense of the term ‘action’. Ludwig takes this to imply that the notion of collective action is a façon de parler – useful perhaps, but secondary and derivative. I argue that, on the contrary, collective actions are actions in the primary and non-derivative sense. First, this is because some primitive actions are collective actions. Secondly, individual and collective composites of primitive actions are also actions in the (...) primary and non-derivative sense. Hence, individual action and collective action are ontologically on a par. Ludwig also exaggerates the contrast between individual and collective action by introducing a “sole agency requirement” in his account of the semantics of singular action sentences. However, sole agency is merely typically pragmatically implicated by singular action sentences, not entailed by them. If I say, “I turned on the light”, after we each flipped one of two switches that together turned on the light, then I might be misleading the audience, but what I say is true. Finally, I argue that, contra Ludwig, individuals often have “I-intentions” to bring about an event that can be satisfied even if there are co-agents who bring about the event in the same way. (shrink)
What is required for several agents to intentionally φ together? I argue that each of them must believe or assume that their φ-ing is a single end that each intends to contribute to. Various analogies between intentional singular action and intentional joint action show that this doxastic single end condition captures a feature at the very heart of the phenomenon of intentional joint action. For instance, just as several simple actions are only unified into a complex intentional singular activity if (...) the agent believes or assumes that there is a single end that each action is directed to, so several agents’ actions are only unified into an intentional joint activity if each agent believes or assumes that there is a single end that each intends to contribute to. Influential accounts of intentional joint action, including Christopher Kutz’s and Michael Bratman’s, implicitly include this condition only if participants must intend to contribute to the end under the same conception. While such a requirement successfully rules out some counterexamples, it also makes the accounts unable to appropriately accommodate and explain clear cases of intentional joint action that they ought to be able to accommodate and explain. (shrink)
Olle Blomberg challenges three claims in my book From Individual to Plural Agency (Ludwig, Kirk (2016): From Individual to Plural Agency: Collective Action 1. Vols. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press.). The first is that there are no collective actions in the sense in which there are individual actions. The second is that singular action sentences entail that there is no more than one agent of the event expressed by the action verb in the way required by that verb (the (...) sole agency requirement). The third, is that an individual intention, e.g. to build a boat, is not satisfied if you don’t do it yourself. On the first point, I grant that Blomberg identifies an important distinction between simple and composite actions the book did not take into account, but argue it doesn’t show that there are collective actions in the same sense there are individual actions. On the second point, I argue from examples that the collective reading of plural action sentences doesn’t entail the distributive reading, which requires the sole agency requirement on singular action sentences. This settles the third point, since it entails that if you intend to build a boat, you are successful only if you are the only agent of it in the sense required by the verb. (shrink)
According to some accounts, an individual participates in joint intentional cooperative action by virtue of conceiving of him- or herself and other participants as if they were parts of a single agent or body that performs the action. I argue that this notional singularization move fails if they act as if they were parts of a single agent. It can succeed, however, if the participants act as if to bring about the goal of a properly functioning single body in action (...) of which they would be parts. This latter version of the move manages to capture the cooperative character of joint intentional cooperative action. It does this without requiring of participants that they act on higher-order interlocking intentions. (shrink)
Moral disagreement is sometimes thought to pose problems for moral realism because it shows that we cannot achieve knowledge of the moral facts the realists posit. In particular, it is "fundamental" moral disagreement—that is, disagreement that is not due to distorting factors such as ignorance of relevant nonmoral facts, bad reasoning skills, or the like—that is supposed to generate skeptical implications. In this paper, we show that this version of the disagreement challenge is flawed as it stands. The reason is (...) that the epistemic assumptions it requires are incompatible with the possibility of fundamental disagreement. However, we also present an alternative reconstruction of the challenge that avoids the problem. The challenge we present crucially invokes the principle that knowledge requires "adherence". While that requirement is usually not discussed in this context, we argue that it provides a promising explanation of why disagreement sometimes leads to skepticism. (shrink)
In this paper, we critically examine Molly Gardner’s favored solution to what she calls “the problem of justified harm.” We argue that Gardner’s view is false and that her arguments in support of it are unconvincing. Finally, we briefly suggest an alternative solution to the problem which avoids the difficulties that beset Gardner’s proposal.
According to the standard story given by reductive versions of the Causal Theory of Action, an action is an intrinsically mindless bodily movement that is appropriately caused by an intention. Those who embrace this story typically take this intention to have a coarse-grained content, specifying the action only down to the level of the agent's habits and skills. Markos Valaris argues that, because of this, the standard story cannot make sense of the deep reach of our non-observational knowledge of action. (...) He concludes that we therefore have to jettison its conception of actions as mindless bodily movements animated from the outside by intentions. Here we defend the standard story. We can make sense of the reach of non-observational knowledge of action once we reject the following two assumptions: (i) that an intended habitual or skilled action is a so-called basic action—that is, an action that doesn't involve any finer-grained intentions—and (ii) that an agent, in acting, is merely executing one intention rather than a whole hierarchy of more or less fine-grained intentions. We argue that (i) and (ii) are false. (shrink)
What is the moral significance of the contrast between acting together and strategic interaction? We argue that while collective moral responsibility is not uniquely tied to the former, the degree to which the participants in a shared intentional wrongdoing are blameworthy is normally higher than when agents bring about the same wrong as a result of strategic interaction. One argument for this claim focuses on the fact that shared intentions cause intended outcomes in a more robust manner than the intentions (...) involved in strategic interaction. We argue, however, that this in itself is not significant. The significant difference is rather volitional: The parties to a shared intention are mutually implicated in each other’s will in a distinct way. Since degree of blameworthiness depends on the quality of will an agent displays in her actions, this explains the higher degree of collective blameworthiness associated with shared intentional wrongdoing. (shrink)
Philosophical accounts of joint action are often prefaced by the observation that there are two different senses in which several agents can intentionally perform an action Φ, such as go for a walk or capture the prey. The agents might intentionally Φ together, as a collective, or they might intentionally Φ in parallel, where Φ is distributively assigned to the agents, considered as a set of individuals. The accounts are supposed to characterise what is distinctive about activities in which several (...) agents intentionally Φ collectively rather than distributively. This dualism between joint and parallel action also crops up outside philosophy. For instance, it has been imported into a debate about whether or not group hunting among chimpanzees is a form of joint cooperative hunting. I offer an account of a form of joint action that falls short of what most philosophers take to be required for genuine joint action, but which is not merely parallel activity. This shows that the dualism between the genuinely joint and the merely parallel is false. I offer my account as an explication of an influential definition of “cooperative behaviour” given by the primatologists Christophe and Hedwig Boesch. (shrink)
Critics argue that non-cognitivism cannot adequately account for the existence and nature of some thick moral concepts. They use the existence of thick concepts as a lever in an argument against non-cognitivism, here called the Thick Concept Argument (TCA). While TCA is frequently invoked, it is unfortunately rarely articulated. In this paper, TCA is first reconstructed on the basis of John McDowell’s formulation of the argument (from 1981), and then evaluated in the light of several possible non-cognitivist responses. In general, (...) TCA assumes too much about what a non-cognitivist is (or must be) committed to. There are several non-cognitivist theories, and only some fit the view attacked by TCA. Furthermore, TCA rests on a contestable intuition about a thought experiment, here called the External Standpoint Experiment (ESE). It is concluded that TCA is remarkably weak, given how frequently the argument is invoked. (shrink)
The view that an agent’s cognitive processes sometimes include proper parts found outside the skin and skull of the agent is gaining increasing acceptance in philosophy of mind. One main empirical touchstone for this so-called active externalism is Edwin Hutchins’ theory of distributed cognition (DCog). However, the connection between DCog and active externalism is far from clear. While active externalism is one component of DCog, the theory also incorporates other related claims, which active externalists may not want to take on (...) board. DCog implies a shift away from an organism-centred cognitive science to a focus on larger socio-technical-cum-cognitive systems. In arguing for this shift, proponents of DCog seem to accept that socio-cultural systems have some form of agency apart from the agencies of the individuals inside them. I will tentatively suggest a way in which such a notion of agency can be cashed out. (shrink)
According to we-mode accounts of collective intentionality, an experience is a "we-experience"—that is, part of a jointly attentional episode—in virtue of the way or mode in which the content of the experience is given to the subject of experience. These accounts are supposed to explain how a we-experience can have the phenomenal character of being given to the subject "as ours" rather than merely "as my experience" (Zahavi 2015), and do so in a relatively conceptually and cognitively undemanding way. Galotti (...) and Frith (2013) and Schmitz (2017) present we-mode accounts that are supposed to, in particular, avoid the need for the subjects of experience to have common knowledge of each other’s perceptual beliefs. In this paper, drawing in part on Schutz’s (1932/1967; 1953) writings on "the pure We-relationship", I argue that appeal to a we-mode does not render common knowledge unnecessary. To explain when we-experiences are veridical, we-mode accounts must (i) explain how a we-experience can enable rational interpersonal coordination in some high-risk situations and (ii) explain why what is experienced is "out in the open" between the subjects of the we-experience. To do this, proponents of we-mode accounts need an account of common knowledge. In addition, they must explain why certain inferences hold between we-mode and I-mode attitudes. In light of this, we-mode accounts fare no better than content accounts in illuminating how basic forms of collective intentionality are possible. (shrink)
Another look is taken at the model assumptions involved in William Dembski’s (2002a, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot be Purchased without Intelligence. Roman & Littlefield, Lanham, MA) use of the NFL theorems from optimization theory to disprove the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection, and his argument is shown to be irrelevant to evolutionary biology.
In this article I argue against Schroeder's account of the weight of normative reasons. It is shown that in certain cases an agent may have reasons she cannot know about without them ceasing to be reasons, and also reasons she cannot know about at all. Both possibilities are troubling for Schroeder's view.
This essay discusses the ways in which `Mode 1' and `Mode 2' interact, by reviewing the development of research funding in Sweden during the twentieth century. It argues that `Mode 2' has been the traditional mode of practice. `Mode 1' is a post-war phenomenon, but it is presently the dominant layer of Swedish publicly-funded science and science policy. This essay argues that we are seeing not an increase in uncertainty, but rather a decreasing tolerance of uncertainty.
There is a fixed limit on the greenhouse gas emissions that the atmosphere can absorb before triggering dangerous climate changes. One of the debates in climate ethics concerns how the available emissions should be divided between people. One popular answer, sometimes called “Emissions Egalitarianism”, proposes a distribution of emissions permits that gives everyone an equal per capita share of the atmospheric absorptive capacity. However, several debaters have objected to EE. First, it has been argued that there is no principled reason (...) to accept EE, since it cannot be justified on the basis of any moral theory. Second, it has been argued that there is neither any pragmatic reason to accept EE, since it is impracticable, politically unfeasible, and fails to reach its goal. This paper defends EE against these objections. First, it shows that EE can be justified on libertarian, utilitarian, and fairness grounds, respectively. Second, it shows that EE is neither more impracticable, nor more politically unfeasible, than its rivals. It also argues that EE does not fail to reach its goal. Consequently, there is a case to be made for EE. (shrink)
According to many popular views in normative ethics, meta-ethics and axiology, facts about what we ought to do or what is good for us depend on facts about the attitudes that some agent would have in some relevant idealized circumstances. This paper presents an unrecognized structural problem for such views which threatens to be devastating.
In “Intentional action and side-effects in ordinary language” (2003), Joshua Knobe reported an asymmetry in test subjects’ responses to a question about intentionality: subjects are more likely to judge that a side effect of an agent’s intended action is intentional if they think the side effect is morally bad than if they think it is morally good. This result has been taken to suggest that the concept of intentionality is an inherently moral concept. In this paper, we draw attention to (...) the fact that Knobe’s original interpretation of the results is based on an abstract rendering of the central scenario that is significantly different from the vignettes presented to the survey participants. In particular, the experimental vignettes involve temporal and social dimensions; they portray sequences of social actions involving an agent and an interlocutor, rather than a lone agent making a momentary decision in light of certain attitudes. Through textual analyses of a set of vignettes used to study the Knobe effect, drawing on ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, and discursive psychology, we show that there are many differences between the experimental conditions besides the moral valence of the side effect. In light of our textual analyses, we discuss vignette methodology in experimental philosophy and suggest an alternative interpretation of Knobe’s original experimental results. We also argue that experimental philosophy could benefit from considering research on naturally occurring social interaction as an alternative source of empirical findings for discussions of folk-psychological concepts. (shrink)
A prominent objection to the counterfactual comparative account of harm is that it classifies as harmful some events that are, intuitively, mere failures to benefit. In an attempt to solve this problem, Duncan Purves has recently proposed a novel version of the counterfactual comparative account, which relies on a distinction between making upshots happen and allowing upshots to happen. In this response, we argue that Purves’s account is unsuccessful. It fails in cases where an action makes the subject occupy a (...) high well-being level though one of the available alternatives would have made it even higher. In fact, it fails even in some cases where each of the available alternatives to the action that was actually performed would have made the subject’s well-being level lower. (shrink)
In climate ethics, there is a debate about how the carbon budget, in terms of emissions permits, should be divided between people. One popular proposal, sometimes called The Equal per Capita View, says that everyone should have an equal share of the available emissions permits. Several authors have objected to this view, arguing that: (i) the equal per capita view implies isolationism since it treats emissions permits in isolation from other considerations of justice such as development, poverty and trade; and (...) (ii) isolationism is implausible since it yields a number of problematic implications; therefore (iii) the equal per capita view is implausible. I examine this argument against the equal per capita view by scrutinizing the presumed problematic implications of isolationism. I show that they are either mistakenly inferred from isolationism or irrelevant as to whether isolationism is plausible or not. I conclude that the equal per capita view should not be discarded for being an isolationist approach. Rather, both isolationism and the equal per capita view should be considered as potential action guides. This result is of relevance to the climate political debate, since it could promote progress in the climate negotiations that are needed for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as set by the Paris Agreement. (shrink)