Keyboard Shortcuts?

  • Next step
  • Previous step
  • Skip this slide
  • Previous slide
  • mShow slide thumbnails
  • nShow notes
  • hShow handout latex source
  • NShow talk notes latex source

Click here and press the right key for the next slide (or swipe left)

also ...

Press the left key to go backwards (or swipe right)

Press n to toggle whether notes are shown (or add '?notes' to the url before the #)

Press m or double tap to slide thumbnails (menu)

Press ? at any time to show the keyboard shortcuts


Aggregate Animals, Aggregate Subjects

On accounts like Bratman’s or Gilbert’s, ‘it makes some sense to say that the result is a kind of shared action: the individual people are, after all, acting intentionally throughout.

However, in a deeper sense, the activity is not shared: the group itself is not engaged in action whose aim the group finds worthwhile, and so the actions at issue here are merely those of individuals.

Thus, these accounts ... fail to make sense of a ... part of the landscape of social phenomena


Helm (2008, pp. 20-1)

Start with Helm’s challenge ([because I can answer it at the end]).
This is bad: who can explain what sharing amounts to? This is just a metaphor. Our problem is to discipline the metaphor, not to write as if we already understood it.
It is hard to understand what Helm is aiming for here, but I think the idea is that the actions should be not merely those of individuals but of the group itself.
The objection says something is missing, but actually our interest is driven by the thought that both Gilbert’s and Bratman’s approaches are inadqeuate as attempts to characterise shared agency.
How to make sense of this idea?


aggregate subject

I think Helm wants what I will call an ‘aggregate subject’. (He uses the term ‘plural robust agent’, but this is because he ignores a distinction between aggregate and plural subjects which will be important later.)
Meet an aggregate animal, the Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis), which is composed of polyps.
Here you can say that ‘the group [of polyps] itself’ is engaged in action which is not just a matter of the polyps all acting.
To illustrate, consider how it eats. Wikipedia: ‘Contractile cells in each tentacle drag the prey into range of the digestive polyps, the gastrozooids, which surround and digest the food by secreting enzymes that break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, while the gonozooids are responsible for reproduction.’
This jellyfish-like animal is a crude model for the sort of aggregate agent Helm (and others) suggest we need.
But how can such a thing exist? Humans do not mechanically attach themselves in the way that the polyps making up that jellyfish-like animal do.
So how are aggregate agents possible?