Can I only intend-that?

Pettit and Schweikard’s (2006) analyze several requirements that must be fulfilled for a joint performance to occur. 1) There has to be a common target. 2) Every individual must be focused on the joint performance. 3) Each must act intentionally in enacting that performance.

Regarding this third requirement they wonder how an individual can intend to do something that lies outside his/her control. So I cannot intend to X, where X-ing is a joint performance. But I may still be able to intend that we X together.” This intending-that clause is formulated by Bratman (1999). This solution, however, has its own problems. In short, the problem with Bratman’s formula “I intend that we J” is that an intention only concerns actions that the intended actor him- or herself is able to settle and control. As it turns out “I intend that we J” is equally self-defeating as a definition as is “I intend to X” (where X-ing is a joint performance).

I argue that Pettit and Schweikard’s position results in most intentions, even individual intentions, becoming I-intend-that intentions, which face the same problem of control as we-intentions. As our lives are enormously entwined with those of others, and we can hardly turn a corner without meeting other people, we very often intend things that lie beyond our (direct) control. The reason that is used to argue that collective intentions are problematic seems to imply that individual intentions are problematic as well.

The realization of our intentions (both I and we) seems to be depending unceasingly on an intensive fine-tuning with other people and their intentions and actions. I will argue that the distinction between intention in action and prior intention might be helpful to explore collective intentions when taking into account the problem of control.

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