Skip to main content

Joint Action (PH359)

Shared agency is a familiar feature of everyday life: people move tables together, walk together, play piano duets and paint houses together. Until recently, philosophers of mind and action, like many cognitive and developmental psychologists, have focussed on the case of an individual acting alone and ignored the fact that people often do things together. This fact gives rise to a number of philosophical questions, some of which are included below. The aim of this module is to introduce key questions about joint action, survey some attempts to answer them and, most importantly, equip you to elaborate and defend answers of your own.

This module will introduce you to some questions about joint action that arise from recent philosophical and experimental research, including:

• How must models of individual agency be revised or extended to accommodate shared agency?
• What distinguishes events that involve shared agency from events that do not? Which planning mechanisms enable us to coordinate our plans and actions, and what if anything do these mechanisms tell us about the nature of shared agency?
• Does the existence of shared agency entail that there are mental states with plural subjects, or that there are special kinds of mental state (so-called ‘we-intentions’), or special kinds of reasoning (‘team reasoning’)?
• How, if at all, can we make sense of the idea that states like knowledge or intention can be shared by two or more subjects?
• What kinds of commitment, if any, are required for shared agency?
• When does shared agency first appear in human development?
• What role might it play in facilitating development?
• Should reflection of the motor or perceptual processes which enable us to coordinate our actions inform theories about what shared agency is?

Joint Action
CATS

This module is worth 15 CATS.