Research

Description

My research focuses primarily on pursuing two questions: (1) what is it to act together? And (2) what do we owe each other when we do? I argue that these questions are best answered by taking seriously interdependent conditional intentions and normative interests.

Currently, I'm working on the following things.

Conditional Intentions

I defend the idea that we act together, in the sense of genuinely sharing agency, when we have a collective intention. Collective intentions are combinations of special, individual, conditional intentions. The argument for this claim is presented "Conditional Intentions and Shared Agency", available on the right.

Work on this topic has led me to think about conditional intentions more generally, and the roles the play in our individual agency. With Jules Salomone-Sehr, I'm working on an account of what it is to "decide decision-making away" in the face of a hard deliberative problem. We think that one way to avoid a hard decision is to instead form conditional intentions and leave the rest up to the world.

Experimental Philosophy

Javier Gomez-Lavin and I have developed an interdisciplinary project that uses the methods of experimental philosophy to address questions in the philosophy of collective action.

We've published several papers about the presence of obligations in collective action. We argue that our everyday conception of acting together with others includes obligations, but minimal ones that do not demand strict performance of one's part. And we think that with some plausible auxiliary assumptions this fact has some important consequences for philosophical theories of collective intention.

We're now testing whether people's conception of shared agency differs from their conception of strategic reasoning, as some philosophers have claimed and others denied.

Solidarity

I think the obligations involved in acting together are obligations of solidarity. Solidarity is, primarily, about sharing fates. Acting together, in the sense I'm interested in, is about sharing agential fates. Collective intentions make it so that one agent's intentions are successful only when everyone else's are. Fate-sharing is governed by social norms that make us answerable to one another. As an instance of it, acting together is also governed by these norms. The obligations these norms generate are justified by our normative interests in binding ourselves together.

 

Publications

(forthcoming) A Pathology of Group Agency. Social Theory and Practice.

Using the example of the Proud Boys, this paper explores two things: how dissident members undermine the agency of a group and how a group may be responsible for things those members bring about.

(2024) Conditional Intentions and Shared Agency, Noûs

This paper argues that some collective intentions are combinations of special individual conditions intentions.

(2024) "Morality, Friendship, and Collective Action", Journal of Social Ontology. Co-authored with Javier Gomez-Lavin.

We test intuitions about obligations between participants in moral, neutral, and immoral collective actions. We also test intuitions about collective actions in which the participants are strangers or friends.

(2023) "Collective Intentions", In M.N.S. Sellers and Stephan Kirste (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, Springer. Co-authored with Jules Salomone-Sehr.

This entry surveys major accounts of collective intentions.

(2023) "Response to Löhr: Why We Still Need a New Normativism about Collective Action", Philosophical Quarterly. Co-authored with Javier Gomez-Lavin.

We respond to some critical comments by Guido Löhr about our (2022) paper, listed below. We argue that the conclusions of that paper still hold.

(2022) "Why We Need a New Normativism about Collective Action". Philosophical Quarterly 72(2): 478-507. Co-authored with Javier Gomez-Lavin.

This paper presents new empirical research about collective action, which suggests that, according to our common understanding, we do not need to seek the permission of our co-actors before leaving a collective action. We then consider what these results mean for a normativist theory of collective action.

(2021) "Quasi-Psychologism about Collective Intention". Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.

This paper considers the consequences of recent empirical results for a class of views of collective intention.

(2019) "Normativity in Joint Action", Mind & Language 34(1): 97-120. Co-authored with Javier Gomez-Lavin

This paper presents empirical research on intuitions about the normative relations involved in joint action. It suggests that the results support a “normativist” view of collective intention.

(2018) "Alignment and Commitment in Joint Action", Philosophical Psychology, 31(6): 831-849

This paper argues against an attempted application of research in cognitive science and social psychology to philosophical debates about joint action. It then argues for a different way of applying that research.

(2016) “Hegemony, Power, and Social Reality in Gramsci and Searle”, Journal of Political Power, 9(2): 227-247.

This paper attempts a synthesis of work on the nature of social reality by John Searle and Antonio Gramsci. It argues that such a synthesis is mutually beneficial.

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Bruce Nauman, "Double Poke in the Eye II"