Bratman, Searle, and Simplicity. A comment on Bratman, Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together
Keywords:Michael Bratman, shared agency, collective action, collectivity, John Searle
Michael Bratman’s work is established as one of the most important philosophical approaches to group agency so far, and Shared Agency, A Planning Theory of Acting Together confirms that impression. In this paper I attempt to challenge the book’s central claim that considerations of theoretical simplicity will favor Bratman’s theory of collective action over its main rivals. I do that, firstly, by questioning whether there must be a fundamental difference in kind between Searle style we-intentions and I-intentions within that type of framework. If not, Searle’s type of theory need not be less qualitatively parsimonious than Bratman’s. This hangs on how we understand the notions of modes and contents of intentional states, and the relations between modes, contents, and categorizations of such states. Secondly, by questioning whether Bratman’s theory steers clear of debunking or dismissing collectivity. Elsewhere I have claimed that the manoeuvres Bratman suggested to avoid circularity in his conceptual analysis (in 1992 and 1997) undermine the strength of his resulting notion of collective action. Bratman responds in detail to this objection in his new book and I return to the issue towards the end of the paper.
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