How to explain spontaneous group actions
This paper argues that in order to explain spontaneous group actions a theory must appeal to something external to the agents’ attitudes and their connections. The paper is divided into three parts. The first part defines spontaneous group actions and provides reason to believe that they exist. Spontaneous group actions are those where there is no binding interaction on the part of the agents before they begin acting together. By binding interaction, I mean that which would count as binding two or more individuals together, e.g., recognition of mutual willing (Gilbert 1990). Spontaneous group actions are characterized by agents acting together immediately, without relying on the other’s validation, and isolate an essential feature of group action, that is, the co-agential perspective agents have towards one another as agents acting together. Many theories appeal to such a perspective: we-attitudes (Tuomela and Miller 1988), practical intersubjectivity (Roth 2003), and treating the other as an intentional co-participant (Bratman 2014). Usually theories appeal to this perspective to explain how agents are adequately bound together in group action. But the co-agential perspective on fellow agents in group action is also essential to explaining how spontaneous co-agents are bound together at all. If there is this coagential perspective on agents, then it is possible for spontaneous group actions to exist. Hence, spontaneous group actions are those performed without binding interaction by co-agents, and their possibility is implied by the co-agential perspective that agents have on their fellow coagents in group action generally. In part two, I argue that one form of theory, ‘internalism about group action’, is inadequate for explaining spontaneous group actions. Internalism explains group actions with reference to the attitudes and their connections of the co-agents performing the group action. How could internalist accounts explain spontaneous group actions? Each co-agent has to know the other’s intention in order for her attitudes to ‘mesh’ with her co-agent’s. As per the agential perspective, they should not be frustrating each other’s courses of action, so knowing the other’s intention is crucial. But the only way to achieve this knowledge is to interact with her in some relevant bonding way. Interaction appears to be necessary to explain any group action for internalists, rendering spontaneous group actions are impossible. For this reason, ‘externalism about group action’ must be explored. It claims that something external to the agents’ attitudes (and their connections) partly explains a group’s action. The general idea for externalism is that the external element will overcome the need for interaction and, thus, spontaneous group actions can be explained. The final part briefly suggests that this external element is a normative group-reason. These are considerations that count in favour of performing actions together, for two or more people, which must be objective, external, and normatively public. If two or more people respond to a normative group-reason, then they would not need to interact with each other in order to act together. The group reason would bind them together in spontaneous group action.
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