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Schmid’s ‘Charlie Brown Phenomenon’

‘participants in joint action are usually focused on whatever it is they are jointly doing rather than on each other. Where joint action goes smoothly, the participants are not thinking about the others anymore than they are thinking about themselves’


Schmid (2013, p. 37)

I don’t think this observation is an argument or an objection, but it is suggestive.
In Pacherie’s account, we need beliefs about the others and their team reasoning.
In Bratman’s account we need intentions about others’ intentions.

‘cooperators normatively expect their partners to cooperate; they do not predict their cooperation’

Dominant View: ‘the representation of the participation of the others has a mind-to-world direction of fit.’

Alternative View: ‘the representation of the participation of the others has a world-to-mind direction of fit.’


Schmid (2013, p. 38)

Ok, this is just an assertion. What’s the argument for it ...
‘As his intention was to hit the ball rather than just to try to hit the ball, Charlie’s intention either represents Lucy (cognitively) as doing her part (holding the ball steady) or at least is incompatible with the belief that Lucy will not hold the ball. Already in the 1950s, it becomes increasingly clear that Lucy will pull the ball away. This evidence is further corroborated over the following decades. Therefore, Charlie should not be optimistic. By continuing to intend to kick the ball, it seems that Charlie violates the sufficient reason condition. As he has reason to believe that Lucy will pull away the ball, there is insufficient reason for optimism that he will be able to kick it.
‘Thus, in the view developed so far, and endorsed by such authors as John Searle (2010), Raimo Tuomela, and Michael Bratman, there must be something structurally wrong with Charlie’s intentionality; in his right mind, he cannot intend to kick the ball. According to this line of analysis of joint action, Charlie is simply unreasonable.’
BUT: ‘People think that Lucy rather than Charlie is at fault’ (Schmid 2013, p. 46)

Team reasoning


Participants reason about what team-directed preferences require (so do not distinguish themselves from others).

‘participants in a joint action represent their partners as doing their parts in the same way as individual intentions implicitly represent the agent as continuing to be willing and able to perform the action until the intention’s conditions of satisfaction are reached’

‘individual agents of temporally extended actions “represent” their own future intentions and actions in the same way in which cooperators represent their partners’ intentions and actions.’


Schmid (2013, p. 49)

How do cooperators represent their partners’ actions?

‘this representation is neither (purely) cognitive nor (purely) normative, but rather a very peculiar combination of the two. ’


Compare representing your own actions:

‘An individual with a purely cognitive stance toward his own future self’s behavior and no normative expectation is a predictor of his behavior rather than an intender of his future action; similarly, an individual with a purely normative stance toward his own future behavior is a judge over [...] his future behavior rather than an agent.’


Schmid (2013, p. 50)

I don’t want to go all the way with Schmid. In particular, I don’t quite accept his suggestion that ‘A cooperator’s basic attitude toward his partner is such that he (implicitly) assumes that by representing the other as doing his part he makes it more likely that the other will in fact do his part because it provides the other with a motivating and a normative reason to do so.’ (p. 50)

How can we turn these observations into a theory?

Recall that we want a theory in order to be able to distinguish genuine joint action from parallel but merely individual action.

PS: Are we still talking about aggregate agents?

Yes: from the point of view of the agents. (If Schmid is right, the basic attitude I have towards your actions does not distinguish your actions from mine.)