Why We Can't (Always) Really Share Intentions and Why It Doesn't (Always) Matter
In John R. Searle’s The Construction of Social Reality (1995), ‘We-intentions’ are proffered to account for the cooperative nature of human collective intentionality, which he argues cannot be secured by analyses that reduce group intentions to individuals’ intentions. While Searle may be correct to argue that such reductionist analyses fail, his own account is ultimately untenable as well. His account cannot ensure that intentions really are shared (as opposed to merely presupposed as shared) and is excessively restrictive in what it can accommodate as a case of collective intention. I then examine J. David Velleman’s “How To Share An Intention” (1997). Because the interest of this short paper lay in the relation of individual and collective intentions (as understood by Searle and others) to questions surrounding the epistemology and metaphysics of the social sciences, following Velleman, I extend the category of ‘intention’ from Searle’s stance that intentions exist in heads to include public speech acts and written assertions. However, I suggest that Velleman’s revisitation suffers from the same two difficulties as the Searlian program. Lastly, I turn to the idea that Searle’s conceptual analysis does not serve us well in the project of explaining how and why ascriptions of collective intention figure in macro-level explanations advanced by the social sciences and why such ascriptions are not easily eliminable. When social scientists attempt to analyse, predict, or ascribe group intentions and behaviours, reference to the actual intentions of the members is not necessarily required. Reference to the intentions of members may even be misguided or inappropriate because looking for explanations at the micro-level alone can omit features that are common between social group types.
Social ontology; philosophy of social science; Searle; collective intentionality; collective agency
In John R. Searle’s The Construction of Social Reality (1995; herein, CSR), ‘We-intentions’ are proffered to account for the cooperative nature of human collective intentionality, which he argues cannot be secured by analyses that reduce group intentions to individuals’ intentions (even when supplemented with an individual’s beliefs about the intentions and beliefs of others). Searle may be correct to argue that such reductionist analyses fail, but his own account is ultimately untenable as well. This is because, (i) his account cannot ensure that intentions really are shared (as opposed to merely presupposed as shared);  and (ii) is excessively restrictive in what it can accommodate as a case of collective intention. Having illuminated both Searle’s account and its difficulties, I then examine J. David Velleman’s ‘How To Share An Intention’ (1997). Velleman’s article is a revisitation and revamping of Searle’s account of collective intentionality. Because the interest of this short paper lay in the relation of individual and collective intentions (as understood by Searle and others) to questions surrounding the epistemology and metaphysics of the social sciences, following Velleman, I extend the category of ‘intention’ from Searle’s stance that intentions exist in heads to include public speech acts and written assertions. However, I suggest that Velleman’s revisit suffers from the same difficulties as the Searlian program, namely problems (i) and (ii) as articulated above.
I then turn to the idea that Searle’s conceptual analysis does not serve us well in the project of (i) explaining how and why ascriptions of collective intention figure in macro-level explanations advanced by the social sciences; and (ii) why such ascriptions are not easily eliminable. When social scientists attempt to analyse, predict, or ascribe group intentions and behaviours, reference to the actual intentions of the members is not necessarily required.  In some cases, reference to the intentions of members may even be misguided or inappropriate because looking for explanations at the micro-level alone can omit features that are common between social group types with differing supervenience bases, that is, between groups composed of different individuals with different individual and collective intentions. For elucidation, consider the following: The existence of some social kinds, properties, and institutions may be directly dependent on human attitudes (e.g. that Barack Obama was President of the United States in the year 2012, the existence of wives) while in other cases, their existence may be dependent on human attitudes, though the kind itself or tokens of the kind need not be represented as existing by some, all, or any human beings (e.g. economic recessions, racism; cf. Thomasson (2003), Searle (2010), Khalidi (2015)). The existence of an economic recession, for example, indirectly depends on social attitudes because whether or not its existence is recognized or represented as existing by anyone, its existence is dependent on other social kinds being explicitly represented as existing (e.g. money, consumer goods) (cf. Thomasson (2003), Searle (2010), Khalidi (2015)). Thus, some social kinds are mind-dependent,  but not concept-dependent. For an economic recession to exist, the concepts money or capital must be represented as existing, but economic recession itself need not be. CSR is one of the earliest attempts by an analytic philosopher to say what social construction amounts to. As a social ontologist, Searle is interested in making clear the metaphysics of social kinds, categories, and phenomena (including collective action and social facts). In CSR, Searle’s primary task is to identify the conditions of possibility of a social world. Otherwise put, CSR attempts to answer the following questions, namely ‘How are institutional facts possible?’ and ‘What is the structure of such facts?’  Searle’s response to those questions, which is to say his views concerning the ontology of social reality and the epistemology and metaphysics of collective intentionality (especially, his ‘We-intentions’), are connected to his positions in the philosophy of mind, intentionality, and consciousness. His broad aim is to situate intentionality within what he calls a ‘naturalist program,’ that is, one consistent with ‘the atomic theory of matter and the evolutionary theory of biology.’  While Searle does not think ‘basic reality’ (i.e. quarks, leptons, strings, whatever) can explain everything, including the totality of the goings on in social reality, he does think that any social ontological theory must be consistent with ‘basic reality,’ whatever that amounts to. CSR attempts to develop an account of the ontology of social facts and institutions where collective intentionality plays a leading role since it is an essential feature of any social fact.  Though ultimately physical, a Searlian world also contains irreducible properties, including intentional states. Explicit in his position that all mental states exist in brains,  the social world is manifest in a plurality of intentional states existing in brains and so, its facts are observer relative. 
Searle’s account of observer relativity is compatible with the view that facts are relative to a community of observers. Indeed, for Searle, all social facts, institutions, and kinds are metaphysically and epistem-ically reliant on the basic form: ‘We collectively accept that X counts as Y in C.’ For instance, what explains the very existence of a Canadian five-dollar bill is one’s acceptance that, collectively (or so one projects), in Canada (C), this material (X) counts as a five-dollar bill (Y). Interestingly, while this formula constructs a social world, Searle is adamant that any form of collective intentionality, including collective acceptance ‘can make a purported reference to other members of a collective independent of the question of whether or not there actually are such members’ (Searle 1992, 407). For Searle, it is the form of the intentional attribution (the second-person plural) that is necessary for any social facts or any social reality to get off the ground. It is therefore consistent with Searle’s program that I am a brain in a vat that takes themselves to exist in a social reality just in case I hold second-person plural intentions and self-attributions that are of the first-person plural form. Searlian collective intentionality is rooted in the intuition that collective intentional behaviour is distinct from individual intentional behaviour and that the former is not tantamount or reducible to the sum of the intentional behaviours of its members as individuals qua individuals. As Searle underscores, in one case, the behaviour of individuals might constitute a set of individual acts and in another, the very same movements might constitute a collective action.
There is a big difference between two violinists playing in an orchestra... and discovering, while I am practicing my part, that someone in the next room is practicing her part, and thus discovering, by chance, we are playing the same piece in a synchronized fashion. 
The difficulty is in explaining in what this internal difference consists. With regard to individual intentional behaviour, convergence on goals and actions might be accidental and, in any case, the sum of the individual intentions ‘does not add up to a collectivity.’  The category of Searlian collective intention encompasses various kinds of collectively intended activities, ranging from cases where the individual goals or behaviours of the members are identical to cases where they are only similar or related.
Consider, for elucidation, the following example to tease apart ‘I-intentions’ and ‘We-intentions.’ My mother and I intend to go to the 7 pm showing of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. In each of our brains, there exists a qualitatively identical ‘We-intention’, which is often implicit, of the form ‘We intend to go to the movie.’ Where the individuals’ goals or behaviours are only similar or related, ‘I-intends’ are derivative from ‘We-intends.’ In these cases, though the actions of the members of a given group may be non-uniform, they sometimes possess a common goal – as Searle says, such cases occur where ‘I am doing something only as part of our doing something.’  To connect this abstract account of these cases, I turn once more to the example of my mother and our intention to go to the movie. This intention or intended behaviour is at once a case of individuals with qualitatively identical intentions (i.e. each of us having in our brains the intention that ‘We intend to go to the movie’) and, once in action, also a case of ‘I am doing something only as part of our doing something.’ To achieve our goal, that is, to get to the movie, my mother has the ‘I-intention’ to drive to us to the movie and I have the ‘I-intention’ to set the alarm to make sure we’re not late. My mother has the ‘I-intention’ to pay for our tickets and I have the ‘I-intention’ to pay for our popcorn. Here, we act together, though not identically, to get to the movie and do what movie-watching people tend to do. At the same time, our intentions and behaviours are qualitatively distinct (going to the movie together involves ‘I-intends’ on both our parts), though they combine to allow us to achieve our collective goal (our ‘We-intention’).
The robust and contentious claim in CSR is that no analysis of collective intentionality is possible in terms of individual intentions, even if supplemented with beliefs (‘I believe and I believe that you believe and I believe that you believe that I believe, and so on’).  In a spirit typical of the analytic philosopher, Searle remarks that ‘every attempt at reducing ‘We intentionality’ to ‘I intentionality’ that I have seen is subject to counterexamples.’  Within Searle’s 1995 work, no counterexamples are provided.
A Searlian ‘We-intention’ is biologically primitive and depends for its existence on a perhaps equally vague notion, namely ‘the Background.’ The bare capacity for collective intentionality is what Searle calls a Background capacity. The capacity for collective intentionality is not itself intentional. This is to say that it is not itself characterized by any particular aboutness and it is not volitional. By ‘biologically primitive,’ Searle means that we (us and other animals) unconsciously follow rules that permit collective intentions (Searle 1999, 128-129).
The key to understanding the causal relations between the structure of the Background and the structure of social institutions is to see that the Background can be causally sensitive to the specific forms of the constitutive rules of the institutions without actually containing any beliefs or desires or representations of those rules. (Searle 1995, 141)
The bearer of a ‘We-intention’ is an individual although it takes the form of the first-person plural. ‘We-intentions’ appeal to so-called ‘Background abilities’ (best elucidated in Searle’s ‘Collective Intentions and Actions’ (1990)). The condition of possibility of collective intentionality presupposes
a Background sense of the other as a candidate for cooperative agency; ... a sense of others as more than mere conscious agents, indeed as actual or potential members of a cooperative activity. 
‘We-intentions’ are different in kind from ‘I-intentions’; they are a separate psychological mode. As Searle describes them: ‘The real distinction between the singular and the collective case is in the type of intention involved, not in the way that the elements in the conditions of satisfaction relate to each other.’  Again, Searle admits that the possibility of error is special to a ‘We-intention’ since, according to Searle, ‘collective intentionality in my head can make a purported reference to other members of a collective independent of the question of whether or not there actually are such members.’  I would add, the possibility of error is also special to a ‘We-intention’ in the following sense: What a given individual ‘We-intender’ believes is ‘We-intended’ by the collective is independent of whether the collective really does share any qualitatively identical or derivative ‘We-intention’. Without this caveat, Searle would be left with no explanation for errors that occur when ‘We-intentions’ are only believed to be shared.
However, in CSR, this problem – that collective intentionality in my head can reference other members of a collective independent of whether or not there actually are such members – runs much deeper than Searle seems to imagine.  Since one has no omniscience about the intentions of others (and, perhaps not even of their own intentions, though I bracket this problem herein), a group to which I belong might intend to do X without there being a corresponding ‘We-intention’ in my brain. There might very well be a ‘We-intention’ to not-X in my brain. It would seem that the existence of a single ‘We-intention’ in Jack’s brain, for example, is not sufficient to ensure cooperation in the context of a very important collective intention. As so often sadly happens, let us say that Jack’s brain contains the ‘We-intention’ that with respect to his girlfriend Jill, ‘We (Jack and Jill)’, Jack thinks to himself, ‘intend to one day marry.’ Unfortunately, because love is blind and Jack is naive, Jack is oblivious to the fact that Jill’s brain has no such qualitatively identical or similar ‘We-intention’. Jill’s intention is just to fill in time with Jack until she meets a man she would like to marry.
This is to say that one may be mistaken in the supposition of a shared collective intention and in the supposition of a shared intention-in-action as well. Jill makes some future plans with Jack, perhaps they plan a vacation in the foreseeable future or she agrees to finally attend one of Jack’s family’s barbeques to avoid his nagging. Jack interprets this making of plans as their engaging in ‘steps towards building a forever’ and Jill interprets her making of plans with Jack simply as a means to avoid immediate conflict. Plausibly, intentions exist in individuals’ heads, but it would seem that an implicit requirement, at least insofar as we are concerned with accounting for bona fide cases of cooperative activities and collective intendings is, contra Searle, that ‘We-intentions’ must be shared. More precisely, the content of the ‘We-intentions’ in separate individuals’ brains must align in some manner. But there is nothing in my head that ensures any matching with the contents of your head. I cannot intend (and so ensure or cause), simply by there being a psychological state in my head, that you also have a ‘We-intention’ with content that matches mine. It is not within my power to settle.
In ‘How To Share An Intention,’ Velleman aims to show that it is possible to literally share an intention – that is, it is possible for an intention to ‘be jointly framed and executed by multiple agents.’  Velleman remarks that collective intention, at least as it features in CSR, is not completely ‘faithful to... [Searle’s more general] conception of what an intention is’ and that ‘a more faithful application... yields the conclusion that talk of literally shared intentions is neither mysterious nor incoherent.  For both Searle and Velle-man, intentions are psychological states that resolve deliberative questions (at least those that are really are up to a person) both in reality and notionally.  According to Velleman, the suggestion that we can share an intention if we both intend that ‘we are going to do it’ is untenable because there are ‘too many cooks and too little broth’ (if I settle it, there is no discretion left for you and vice versa).  Since mental representations exist in brains and brains belong to individuals, Searle regards intentions as belonging to individuals. However, Velleman argues that ‘[a]ll that’s essential to intention... is [the fact that it is] a representation with a particular content and causal role.’  Further ‘[i]f I can commit myself to a course of action by speaking or writing, ...I am thereby making an oral or written decision; ... [hence,] there would seem to be a sense in which I can frame an oral or written intention’. 
The publicly asserted conditional willing that ‘I am willing, if you are willing’ (assuming both parties are honest and psychologically committed to action) has the proper causal role and so, will be ‘everything that an intention is except mental.’  As Velleman suggests, saying ‘I am willing if you are’ does not ‘purport to represent a fact that’s independent of itself,’ but still purports to articulate a truth and so, it is unlike a prediction or a report.  In the simple response to ‘If you will, then I will,’ the ‘then’ in ‘then I will,’ indicates that your intention is conditional on mine and vice versa and that you also will because the condition of your willing has already been met.  Here, two cases of individual discretion combine into one instance of collective discretion – each person’s statement ‘represents itself as determining it, only in conjunction with the other’s statement’, the causal powers of the statements are ‘in fact interdependent’, and their behaviour is mutually determined, and represented as such, by both individuals.  Yet, one might be suspicious about how often, given the strict criterion that Velleman outlines, we ever really do literally share an intention. The problem here is in the ineliminability of the sincerity of the speakers and the requirement of their psychological commitment to action. On Searle’s account, and even in Velleman’s reconstruction, cooperation’s being satisfied is not a condition that can be fulfilled or known to be fulfilled internal to the individuals’ brains, but rather is fulfilled or unfulfilled in the relation between them and so, in a certain sense, is external to, but dependent on, both of intenders. There is no way for me to know that you are sincere when you reply ‘Then I will’ in advance of you acting and hence, demonstrating your having had the willingness and the commitment to psychological action in your head. While Searle does not focus his attention on issues surrounding the pragmatic application of ‘We-intentions,’ one might say that an intention was veridical with the intention of another’s because those who formulated it participate in an action that makes it veridical.  I do not believe Searle would disagree with this pragmatic point.
Both Searle’s and Velleman’s accounts are too restrictive in their scope to capture the complexity and variety of what may be considered collective intentions. Not all instances of an attribution of intention to collectives require that each member also possess the intention attributed to the collective. Consider a case of a group looting a store. An intention (whether in the form of a Searlian ‘We-intention’, an ‘I-intention’, or through the literally shared intention à la Velleman) to loot the store may not exist in the brains of each of the members of the group. Perhaps X has the intention to loot the store, but Y only has the intention to do whatever X does, Z cannot properly be said to have any intentions at all since Z is suffering from a psychotic episode, and so on.
In On Social Facts (1989), Margaret Gilbert accentuates another kind of difficulty in the analysis of collective intentionality with the following example. A reading group meets to discuss poetry and after some time, a preferred interpretation emerges, namely that the last line of some poem is very moving indeed.  While we might say or believe that the poetry reading group believes that the last line of the poem is moving, it is possible that not every individual (or indeed anyone at all) thinks this.  In CSR, Searle draws no distinction between collective intentions or beliefs; intentional states of the brain or of thought are collective just in case they are in the form of the first-person plural. Perhaps the group settled on the interpretation simply because ‘they wished the session to end quickly or because they were afraid to speak out.’  An external account attributes a unanimous collective interpretation, while an internal version might have it that each individual feigned agreement in order to end the evening early without being rude (and so, each had the intentions to feign agreement, to avoid being rude, and to get on with the night). On this latter interpretation, the so-called collective interpretation is the result of the actual shared intention – to have the dull event end as quickly as possible. This points to a distinction that K. Brad Wray underscores in ‘Collective Belief and Acceptance’ (2001): ‘Unlike proper beliefs, a collective belief is adopted by a group as a means to realizing the group’s goals.’  Hence, the intentions that groups adopt and which Gilbert refers to as ‘collective beliefs’ ‘are not a species of belief in an important and central sense [for the individuals involved], but rather a species of acceptance’ (though they still fulfil the proper causal role as a collective intention or decision).  In other words, for an individual to accept something as the goal or intention of the group is for the individual to commit one’s self to act with others as if it was one’s personal goal or intention. Gilbert elucidates a few plausible reasons why individuals come to act as if in concert with others, namely to avoid conflict, to accomplish tasks more easily (some goods are only accessible by being part of a group), for a sense of community, etc. 
It is not entirely clear that intentions, on one hand, and beliefs and forms of acceptance, on the other, really are the same in terms of their causal roles. Some kinds of belief and acceptance play a causal role, but having a causal role is not obviously part of their general constitutive structure. In other words, beliefs and intentions don’t have to have a causal role of any kind. People might just accept that X is true without doing anything about it. It’s not clear that an intention is an intention if it doesn’t issue in some kind of action.  A failure to acknowledge this constitutive difference is perhaps a failure of CSR. That being so, I believe Searle would acknowledge that more fine-grained distinctions of the notions of intentions, forms of acceptance, and beliefs are beside the point given his goals in CSR. His aim is to focus on those forms of intentionality that have ‘the right kind of causal role.’
To say that the attribution of collective intention is a mere manner of speaking is problematic and, I think, simply false. Related to explanatory concerns, in the case of a doctoral admissions committee, for instance, ‘the reasons... to accept candidates are reasons for the group but not [necessarily] reasons for any individual.’  To use another example from Tollefsen, on one hand, the token event of the merger between Chrysler and Daimler can be explained by looking to the intentions and actions of the individual decision makers at Chrysler and Daimler, but social scientists are also interested in questions that concern ‘social event types,’ asking such questions as ‘Why do firms or companies, in general, merge under certain economic situations?’  In investigating social event types, appeal to the intentional states of individuals may even be inappropriate: There may be very little or even nothing at all in common at the individual (or micro) level that can explain why groups act in the same way (there is no type-type reduction).  In this sense, as concerns the methodology and explanatory goals of the social sciences, there are good reasons to accept literally attributing intentions to collectives whether each member of the collective actually possesses (in any way) a relevant intention.
Given that much of the social world is presupposed by individuals (in our non-philosophical and even in our more theoretical or philosophical moods, the natural and social world seems always to have already been there), those who are living within it cannot be expected to give a completely exhaustive and accurate account of why they do what they are doing or even a good account of what they are doing. Though the social scientist or anthropologist is sometimes condemned for their removed and panoptic gaze, perhaps they have good metaphysical and epistemological reasons to gaze as they do. Because social kinds/events/properties are multiply realizable, depending on the situation, individuals’ intentions may be explanatorily necessary in explaining group behaviour while in other cases, individuals’ intentions may be unnecessary or simply irrelevant. There is also a sense in which individuals can, sometimes, only think, act, and understand as through a glass darkly. This is to say, in reducing collective intentionality to an analysis of the psychologies of individuals qua individuals, one cannot capture the whole picture. An external perspective is required to examine structural features of collectives in which individuals sometimes feature as mere placeholders. Further, an external perspective will also likely produce different accounts of the relations of groups qua groups with other groups. The groups’ own accounts have blind spots and so too will a third party, though the blind spots will not be identical to the accounts produced by the groups themselves. Indeed, systemic features of collectives may not even be recognizable by the individuals who compose them.
As Tollefsen plausibly argues throughout ‘Collective Intentionality and the Social Sciences’ (2002), to say that the ascription of intentional states to groups is possible even in the ignorance of the actual intentional states of its members is analogous to the way in which we interact with other people every day. More specifically, as she cites Daniel Dennett in The Intentional Stance (1987), this perspectival difficulty is analogous to the way in which ‘we all use folk psychology knowing next to nothing about what actually happens inside people’s skulls.’  That is, our practice of ascribing intentions to collectives often happens without worrying about the particular intentions of its members. In our ascriptions of beliefs and intentions to other individual people and in our ascriptions of beliefs and intentions to groups, in general, our ability to predict their behaviour is fairly successful.  If our interests lay in ensuring cooperation with others, that is, in ensuring the actual sharing of intentions, this interest is naive for the simple reason that we cannot read others’ minds – we cannot access others’ intentions or read sincerity off of faces infallibly. Luckily, for pragmatic reasons, at least, a lack of infallibility is not wholly damning. Folk psychological ascriptions are not infallible, but they are often the best one can work with. Folk psychology does necessitate that an individual have beliefs about others’ beliefs and intentions (this is consistent, at least, with Searle’s view). Although analyses that reduce collective intention to ‘I-intentions’ (plus beliefs) cannot ensure cooperation, neither can ‘We-intentions’. Lived experience does not offer a way out of this theoretical difficulty, though it may suggest that the theoretical worry expressed by Searle and Velleman is just that – a theoretical difficulty akin to so-called hard problems or unanswerable sceptical predicaments. Infallibility is not needed to ensure, in advance of action, cooperation. To put the point the best way I’ve heard or read it, ‘We know and understand intentions in action, not apart from or independently of it.’ 
This paper has argued that both Searle’s and Velleman’s accounts of collective intention fail, firstly, to draw out the implications of what happens when, at best, intentions can only be presupposed as being shared and secondly, are excessively limiting in cases they can accommodate as instances of collective intentionality. Since the ascription of intentions to collectives is possible in ignorance of the actual intentions of the individuals who compose the collective and since macro-level properties of groups (their intentions, goals, and so on) are multiply realizable, engaging in conceptual analysis in the spirit of Searle and Velleman seems not to be the most appropriate course of action for analysing collective intentionality as it plays out in areas of inquiry attended to by social scientists. Their conceptual analyses seem, moreover, to fail to capture how everyday people engage with others and evaluate others’ intentions and sincerity. Pragmatically, we, as a species, are fairly good at navigating a world of people and their feigned versus ‘real’ intentions by means of watching others’ intentions-in-action.
The Intentional Stance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987.
On Social Facts. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
Muhammad Ali Khaldi
‘Three Kinds of Social Kinds,’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 90, 2015. pp. 96-112.
John R. Searle
‘Collective Intentions and Actions’ in P. R. Cohen et al. (eds.) Intentions in Communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990. pp. 401-415.
Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization. Oxford University Press, 2010.
The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press, 1995.
K. Brad Wray
‘Collective Belief and Acceptance’. Synthese. Vol. 129, 2001. pp. 319-333.
Amie L. Thomasson
‘Realism and Human Kinds.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Vol. lxvii. No. 3, 2003. pp. 580-609.
Deborah Perron Tollefsen
‘Collective Intentionality and the Social Sciences’. Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Vol. 32. No. 1, March, 2002. pp. 25-50.
J. David Velleman
‘How To Share An Intention’. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Vol. 57. No. 1, March, 1997. pp. 29-50.
Thank you to a reviewer for pointing out the following problem, namely how would we tell the difference between presupposed sharing and real sharing? Or, to put it another way, what kind of logic is at work in a claim about really shared intentions?’ The quick answer, and the only answer I believe Searle’s entire corpus of work (ranging from his views on the philosophy of language, to consciousness, to social ontology) is, we cannot. I do not believe that such an epistemological puzzle can be solved. Practically, and what Searle would, I believe, countenance is that we can see, over time, whether intentions were indeed shared or only presupposed as such. Examples in this paper, which follow, illuminate such a phenomenon. Nonetheless, the examples I expound still do not provide an adequate answer to the reviewer’s questions. It is possible that at a given point in time, t1, an intention was indeed shared (though, none of us could infallibly know this) and it is only by t2, 6, or what have you, that intentions were no longer shared. The passage of time and the doing of actions are the only practical means by which any of us can determine, with varying levels of certainty (but never with certainty), whether any of us shares intentions.
The idea that social scientific inquiry can generate reliable predictions is controversial. Nonetheless, some social scientists, most notably economists, insist that the social sciences are capable of isolating projectible kinds and categories and, in turn, are able to generate statistical generalizations or predictions.
Gideon Rosen’s ‘Objectivity and Modern Idealism’ (1994) convincingly shows that the idea of mind-dependence itself requires considerable clarification. Hence, invoking mind-dependence as explanatory in delineating the social from non-social is perhaps worrisome. I note this worry, but acknowledge that adequately addressing the issue far surpasses what I am capable of attending to within this paper.
John R. Searle. The Construction of Social Reality. p. 2.
Ibid. p. 6.
Ibid. p. 26.
Ibid. p. 6.
Ibid. p. 10.
Ibid. p. 24.
Ibid. p. 23.
Ibid. p. 24.
John R. Searle. ‘Collective Intentions and Actions’. p. 414.
Ibid. p. 412. My italics added for emphasis.
Ibid. p. 407. My italics added for emphasis.
J. David Velleman. ‘How To Share An Intention’. p. 29.
Ibid. p. 31.
Ibid. p. 32.
Ibid. p. 34.
Ibid. p. 37.
Ibid. p. 39.
Ibid. p. 40.
Ibid. p. 45.
Ibid. p. 48.
Thank you to a reviewer for pressing me on this issue.
Margaret Gilbert. On Social Facts. p. 288-9.
Deborah Perron Tollefsen. ‘Collective Intentionality and the Social Sciences’. p. 28.
K. Brad Wray. ‘Collective Belief and Acceptance’319.
Gilbert. p. 283.
I thank a reviewer for highlighting this shortcoming of Searle’s 1995 project.
Ibid. p. 38.
Ibid. p. 41.
Ibid. p. 40.
Daniel Dennett. The Intentional Stance. p. 48 as found in Tollefsen. p. 29.
Tollefsen. p. 29.
I borrow this thought from a reviewer and thank them for their ability to make succinct a thought I probably never could have.