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(2009) Plural action, Dordrecht, Springer.

Plural action

Hans Bernhard Schmid

pp. 3-28

I call plural those actions that require the participation of at least two individuals (sociality condition) acting in pursuit of one and the same goal (plurality condition). Examples of plural actions are: going for a walk together, jointly writing a paper, or playing a symphony. Even though plural actions abound in our lives, they have been somewhat neglected in philosophical analysis. Part of the reason for this is that plural actions do not seem to fit easily into our standard philosophical conception of agency. Whereas any singular action can be attributed to a single individual agent — the only kind of agent standard theory of action knows of — plural actions seem to require a different kind of agent (the plural agent problem). In the first section of this chapter, I shall use the intuitive idea that one cannot intend what one takes oneself to be unable to perform to approach the plural agent problem, and situate plural actions within a taxonomy of action types (§1). I then turn from action theory to common sense. In contrast to action theory, common sense seems to have no difficulty whatsoever in coming up with suitable agents for plural actions. There are at least three different common sense solutions to the plural agent problem: plural actions are either attributed to collective agents (such as in the case of Parliament's passing a law), to powerful individuals (such as in the case of Caesar's defeating the Helvetii), or to a plurality of individuals jointly intending an action (such as in the case of a bunch of friends going for a walk together). These three replies correspond to three different models (or perhaps types) of plural agency. I propose to call them the collective agent model, the influence model and the teamwork model, respectively, and I shall argue that the teamwork model is the most fundamental of these.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-2437-4_1

Full citation:

Schmid, H.B. (2009)., Plural action, in H. B. Schmid, Plural action, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 3-28.

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