Pacherie’s Objection to Bratman on Shared Intention
Pacherie (2013, p. 2) objects to Bratman (2014)’s theory of shared intention on the grounds that not ‘intentional joint actions require the sophistication in ascribing propositional attitudes that Bratman’s account appears to demand.’ What is this objection and what is the evidence for it?
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.
Pacherie (2013)’s objection slightly modified:
Bratman (2014)’s account requires sophistication in coordinating planning.
There is an age at which children engage in joint action
while lacking this sophistication.
∴ Not all joint action involves the shared intentions Bratman characterises.
If the objection succeeds, it provides reason to prefer Pacherie (2013, p. 18)’s
team-reasoning-based account of shared intention over Bratman (2014)’s.
This is because the former does not require sophistication in coordinating planning.
Premise 2: One- and Two-Year-Olds Are Capable of Performing Joint Actions
A variety of evidence indicates that although
they have quite limited capacities to coordinate their actions with others, even
fourteen-month-olds will spontaneously initiate joint action with an adult.
Children of around this age also demonstrate awareness in the context of joint
action that success requires another person’s contribution.
Carpenter makes a strong case for the claim that
one- and two-year-olds are capable of performing joint actions:
‘By 12–18 months, infants are beginning to participate in a variety of
joint actions which show many of the characteristics of adult joint
(Carpenter, 2009, p. 388)
As does Brownell:
‘infants learn about cooperation by participating in joint action
structured by skilled and knowledgeable interactive partners before they
can represent, understand, or generate it themselves. Cooperative joint
action develops in the context of dyadic interaction with adults in which
the adult initially takes responsibility for and actively structures the
joint activity and the infant progressively comes to master the
structure, timing, and communications involved in the joint action with
the support and guidance of the adult. ... Eager participants from the
beginning, it takes approximately 2 years for infants to become
autonomous contributors to sustained, goal-directed joint activity as
active, collaborative partners’
(Brownell, 2011, p. 200).
Premise 3: One- and Two-Year-Olds Do Not Coordinate Their Plans with Yours
The hypothesis that one- and two-year-olds have shared intentions as
characterised by Bratman generates a prediction: since a function of shared
intention is to coordinate planning, children of this age should be capable,
at least in some minimally demanding situations, of coordinating their plans
Is the prediction correct?
There is good evidence that even 3-year-olds’ abilities to coordinate plans
are quite limited. For instance:
‘3- and 5-year-old children do not consider another person’s actions in
their own action planning (while showing action planning when acting
alone on the apparatus).
Seven-year-old children and adults
however, demonstrated evidence for joint action planning. ... While adult participants
demonstrated the presence of joint action planning from the very
first trials onward, this was not the case for the 7-year-old
children who improved their performance across trials.’
(Paulus, 2016, p. 1059)
‘proactive planning for two individuals, even
when they share a common goal, is more difficult than planning ahead solely
for oneself’ (Gerson, Bekkering, & Hunnius, 2016, p. 128).
There is a review of evidence that the prediction is falsified in
Butterfill (2020, p. Chapter 15).
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: Many of the things we do are, or could be, done with others.
Mundane examples favoured by philosophers include painting a house together (Bratman, 1992),
lifting a heavy sofa together (Velleman, 1997),
preparing a hollandaise sauce together (Searle, 1990),
going to Chicago together (Kutz, 2000),
and walking together (Gilbert, 1990).
These examples are supposed to be paradigm cases of a class of phenomena we shall call ‘joint actions’.
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, 2009b; 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.
: An attitude that stands to joint action as ordinary, individual intention stands to
ordinary, individual action.
It is hard to find consensus on what shared intention is, but most agree
that it is neither shared nor intention.
(Variously called ‘collective’, ‘we-’ and ‘joint’ intention.)
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Blomberg, O. (2016). Common Knowledge and Reductionism about Shared Agency. Australasian Journal of Philosophy
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Bratman, M. E. (1992). Shared cooperative activity. The Philosophical Review
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