The Autonomy Dilemma
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This an optional section that may move to a later lecture. It’s here now because I might use it in response to a question.
If team-reasoning-based accounts of shared intention require aggregate subjects whose preferences are autonomous from their components agents’ preferences, then they cannot account for small-scale, spontaneous joint action with near strangers
If team-reasoning-based accounts of shared intention do not require aggregate subjects whose preferences are autonomous, then they merely capture self-interested optimism which is insufficient for shared intention.
Significance of the Dilemma
The idea that team reasoning can be used to construct an theory of shared intention requires that team reasoning is a feature of all forms of joint action (Gold & Sugden, 2007); or, if not, then at least of the simplest everyday cases of joint action (Pacherie, 2013).
But small-scale, spontaneous joint action with near strangers is a familiar and common feature of everyday life. Accepting the first horn is therefore untennable.
Sugden himself would disagree with the view about what preferences are that is assumed in this section. (This view about preferences was introduced in What Are Preferences?). Sugden rejects that view on the grounds that:
‘On some revealed-preference accounts, preference is nothing more than a disposition that a person may come to have, for whatever reason or for none, which prompts her to choose actions of one kind rather than actions of another. However, such an interpretation of preference seems not to acknowledge the sense in which the theory of rational choice is a theory of reasoning. It would be more faithful to the practice of rational choice theory to say that a person's preferences are whatever she takes to be choice-relevant reasons, all things considered.’ (Sugden, 2000, p. 197)
This requires that we, as researchers, have a shared understanding of preference as ‘taking something to be a choice relevant reason’, that this understanding is not anchored by decision theory, and that aggregate subjects are capable of having preferences so understood.
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Researchers have used a variety of labels including ‘joint action’ (Brooks, 1981; Sebanz, Bekkering, & Knoblich, 2006; Knoblich, Butterfill, & Sebanz, 2011; Tollefsen, 2005; Pettit & Schweikard, 2006; Carpenter, 2009; Pacherie, 2010; Brownell, 2011; Sacheli, Arcangeli, & Paulesu, 2018; Meyer, Wel, & Hunnius, 2013), ‘social action’ (Tuomela & Miller, 1985), ‘collective action’ (Searle, 1990; Gilbert, 2010), ‘joint activity’ (Baier, 1997), ‘acting together’ (Tuomela, 2000), ‘shared intentional activity’ (Bratman, 1997), ‘plural action’ (Schmid, 2008), ‘joint agency’ (Pacherie, 2013), ‘small scale shared agency’ (Bratman, 2014), ‘intentional joint action’ (Blomberg, 2016), ‘collective intentional behavior’ (Ludwig, 2016), and ‘collective activity’ (Longworth, 2019).
We leave open whether these are all labels for a single phenomenon or whether different researchers are targeting different things. As we use ‘joint action’, the term applies to everything any of these labels applies to.
Is decision theory (‘the theory of rational choice’) a theory of reasoning? Arguably it is a model which can be applied to various projects including understanding processes that might be called reasoning (see Are Objections to Decision Theory also Objections to the Dual Process Theory of Action?) as well as to things that are probably not reasoning (for example, motor control; see Trommershäuser, Maloney, & Landy, 2009; Wolpert & Landy, 2012). As reflection on these applications shows, to say that preference is a construct of decision theory does not imply that ‘preference is nothing more than a disposition ... to choose actions’. ↩︎