Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Situating Norms and Jointness of Social Interaction

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Situating Norms and Jointness of Social Interaction

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

People walk, dance, and sport together, as friends, family, colleagues, fellow citizens, and so on. Social interaction occurs everywhere--around dinner tables, in rush hour traffic, at work, and in train carriages. People coordinate actions, at red lights, in queues, and go to the ballot the same day. People are committed to action procedures in interaction, avoiding collisions, not pushing into queues, leaving space for hurrying ambulances, and so on. When we together perform actions by means of each performing a part we engage in joint action.

But under what conditions do sets of part actions qualify as joint action? I will review two camps of earlier analyses of joint action (sections 2 and 3). The important difference between them is what conditions they state about how agents' mental states must be related for their part actions to qualify as a joint action. According to some it is necessary that we have mutual beliefs about what part actions we intend to perform, about what is our goal, or about our commitments to perform certain part actions. Others reject the notion that such mental state relations are necessary, at least for some kinds of joint action. For some kinds of joint action it has been claimed that it is sufficient for sets of part actions to qualify as joint if agents realise that they cannot perform the whole action themselves and that they attend to each other in a special way. I find both camps fundamentally flawed and in dire need of completion.

I propose that context coordinates part actions. Specifically I propose reevaluation of analyses of joint action in light of the 'proposition of situatedness' that, agents acting together are necessarily situated in social contexts structured around rules, roles, and functions, which are signalled by objects distributed in context of interaction. A consequence of taking the situated perspective is that the class of joint actions is wider than if restricted to common knowers, mutual believers, and joint attenders.

What about context of interaction? Echoing Searle, we assign status functions, which entail power relations, to objects and people and accept objects to count as indicators of such functions and power relations. We distribute functions and roles in social environs and invest objects with signalling functions about which actions are expected, which are the norm in the sense of being permitted or prohibited. The proposition of situatedness finds support in Searle's social ontology (section 4) and can be cashed out provided an understanding of how people attend to features of context of interaction that signal which actions are expected, the norm, and allowed or not allowed (section 5). That functions distributed in contexts of interaction influence joint action has repercussions for all earlier analyses of joint action.

2. MAXIMALISM

The first camp of analyses of joint action to be re-evaluated has been called 'maximalism' (Pacherie 2011). 'Maximalist analyses' refers to analyses that state as necessary for part actions to qualify as a joint action that they are performed either in common knowledge or mutual belief about intentions, goals, and reasons for action. The proposition of situatedness, properly developed, will show that part actions qualify as joint action without participants' mental states being related in ways stated as necessary by maximalists. It will also show that maximalism is inaccurate explanation of commitments' involvement in joint action. 'Maximalist explanations of commitments' involvement in joint action' refers to any explanation tying commitments' involvement in joint action to participants' mutual belief or common knowledge about intentions, beliefs, or commitments to part actions.

First question, How can set of actions qualify as joint action without mental states being related in ways stated as necessary according to maximalists? To see how, we need know more about maximalist necessary conditions for actions to qualify as joint. …

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