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Towards a Mechanistically Neutral Account of Acting Jointly: The Notion of a Collective Goal (2022)

by Stephen A. Butterfill and Corrado Sinigaglia

---Mind fzab096(1), pp. 1-29
--- links: [pdf] external [doi: 10.1093/mind/fzab096]


Anyone who has ever walked, cooked or crafted with a friend is in a position to know that acting jointly is not just acting side-by-side. But what distinguishes acting jointly from acting in parallel yet merely individually? Four decades of philosophical research have yielded broad consensus on a strategy for answering this question. This strategy is mph{mechanistically committed}; that is, it hinges on invoking states of the agents who are acting jointly (often dubbed ‘shared’, ‘we-’ or ‘collective’ intentions). Despite the consensus, enduring disagreement remains. The disagreement may be a consequence of the strategy; at least this is plausible enough to motivate considering the prospects for an alternative. Our aim is therefore to draw attention to a coherent alternative that is present in the literature but often overlooked. This alternative is mph{mechanistically neutral}: it avoids invoking states of agents. Implementing the alternative, we introduce the notion of a collective goal and a characterisation of acting jointly which meets criteria standardly used in evaluating other accounts and may have some advantages over those accounts.