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Walking Together in the Tarantino Sense

Recall Bratman’s ‘mafia’ objection

The Simple View

Two or more agents perform an intentional joint action
exactly when there is an act-type, φ, such that
each agent intends that
they, these agents, φ together
and their intentions are appropriately related to their actions.

Bratman’s ‘mafia case’

Recall that Michael Bratman offers a counterexample to something related to the Simple View. Suppose that you and I each intend that we, you and I, go to New York together. But your plan is to point a gun at me and bundle me into the boot (or trunk) of your car. Then you intend that we go to New York together, but in a way that doesn't depend on my intentions. As you see things, I'm going to New York with you whether I like it or not. This doesn't seem like the basis for shared agency. After all, your plan involves me being abducted.
But it is still a case in which we each intend that we go to New York together and we do. So, apparently, the conditions of the Simple View are met (or almost met) and yet there is no shared agency.

1. I intend that we, you and I, go to NYC together.

2. You intend that we, you and I, go to NYC together.

3. You intend that we, you and I, go to NYC together by way of you forcing me into the back of my car.

We’re considering that Bratman’s ‘mafia case’ provides a counterexample to the Simple View. But does it really?
The mafia case fails as a counterexample to the Simple View because if you go through with your plan, my actions won’t be appropriately related to my intention. And, \textbf{on the other hand}, if you don’t go through with your plan, that it is at best unclear that your having had that plan matters for whether we have shared agency.
So Bratman’s ‘mafia case’ is not a counterexample to the Simple View.
Bratman uses the Mafia case to motivate adding further intentions to those specified by the Simple View. But I suggest that an alternative response to the Mafia case is no less adequate and simpler ...
I suggest that what is wrong in the Mafia Case is not that the agent’s need further intentions, but just that if their intentions don’t connect to their actions in the right way then there won’t be intentional joint action.
Rather than continuing to discuss whether the Mafia case really motivates rejecting the Simple View, let me consider other ways to generate what seem to be more plausible candidates for counterexamples to the Simple View ...

Walking together in the Tarantino sense

Here is my attempt to improve on Bratman’s counterexample. Contrast friends walking together in the way friends ordinarily walk, which is a paradigm example of joint action, with two gangsters who walk together like this ...
... Gangster 1 pulls a gun on Gangster 2 and says: “let’s walk” But Gangster 2 does the same thing to Gangster 1 simultaneously.
We might call this ‘walking together in the Tarrantino sense’.
The conditions of the Simple View are met both in ordinary walking together and in walking together in the Tarantino sense. [*Discuss ‘appropriately related’]. So according to the Simple View, both are intentional joint actions.

1. I intend that we, you and I, walk together.

... by means of my forcing you at gun point.

2. You intend that we, you and I, walk together.

... by means of you forcing me at gun point.

The interdependence of the guns means that our actions can be appropriately related to our intentions.
Now I wanted to say that walking together in the Tarantino sense is not an intentional joint action unless the central event of of Reservoir Dogs is also a case of joint action. And I think it’s pretty clear that that isn’t a joint action. But I was surprised to find that at least two people responded, independently of each other, to this suggestion by saying that walking together in the Tarantino sense really is a joint action.
My opponent reasoned that each is acting intentionally, and that coercion is no bar to shared agency.

the threat of collapse: trading intuitions

Just here we come to a tricky issue. There is a danger that we will just end up trying to say something systematic about one or another set of intuitions, where nothing deep underpins these intuitions.
I think this is a real threat; you’ll see that most philosophers are not careful about their starting point in theorising about shared agency. They merely give examples or a couple of contrast cases and off they go. Adopting this undisciplined approach risks achieving nothing more than organising one’s own intuitions. (It’s fine to organise intuitions on weekends and evenings, but it shouldn’t be your day job.)
That’s why I want to go slowly here --- maybe this is very frustrating and you want to get into the really exciting, weird and crazy stuff about plural subjects, shared emotions or aggregate animals. But before we can do this seriously we need some sort of foundation that will ensure we aren’t merely organising intuitions.

another contrast case: blocking the aisle

Imagine two sisters who, getting off an aeroplane, tacitly agree to exact revenge on the unruly mob of drunken hens behind them by standing so as to block the aisle together. This is a joint action. Meanwhile on another flight, two strangers happen to be so configured that they are collectively blocking the aisle. The first passenger correctly anticipates that the other passenger, who is a complete stranger, will not be moving from her current position for some time. This creates an opportunity for the first passenger: she intends that they, she and the stranger, block the aisle. And, as it happens, the second passenger’s thoughts mirror the first’s.

1. The sisters perform a joint action; the strangers’ actions are parallel but merely individual.

2. In both cases, the conditions of the Simple View are met.

The feature under consideration as distinctive of joint action is present: each passenger is acting on her intention that they, the two passengers, block the aisle.


3. The Simple View does not correctly answer the question, What distinguishes genuine joint actions from parallel but merely individual actions?

Explain the case to your partner. Is it a genuine counterexample to the Simple View?

Is it a genuine counterexample?

Recall our earlier contrast cases ...