Searle (1990, pp. 92–3) and Velleman (1997, p. 32) have attempted to provide objections to Bratman’s theory of shared intentional agency. Neither objection works (at least not as it stands), but both illuminate feature’s of Bratman’s view.
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The two objections do not depend on any details of Bratman’s theory of shared intentional agency other than his claim that:
‘Our shared intention to paint together involves your intention that we paint and my intention that we paint.’ (Bratman, 2014, p. 12)
Both objections aim to show that this claim is either false, or at least cannot be used to characterise shared intention without unilluminating circularity.
According to Searle,
‘the team intention … is in part expressed by “We are executing a pass play.” But … no individual member of the team has this as the entire content of his intention, for no one can execute a pass play by himself.’ (Searle, 1990, pp. 92–3)
From this Bratman reconstructs an objection:
If I intend that we paint together, then my intention settles the issue of whether we will paint together.
If the issue is settled, your intention that we paint together cannot settle it.
It follows that if I intend that we paint together, you cannot rationally intend the same.
Therefore, we cannot rationally each intend that we, you and I, paint together.
The persistence of my intention that we paint may depend on the persistence of your intention that we paint; and conversely. That is, our intentions are persistence interdependent.
Where our intentions are persistence interdependent, they collectively settle the issue of whether we will paint (Bratman, 2014, p. 64ff).
Therefore, premises (2) and (3) in Velleman’s Objection are not both true.
Neither objection shows that Bratman’s theory is wrong.
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