Shared Intentionality and the Cooperative Evolutionary Hypothesis
Glenda Satne

October 20, 2017, 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Philosophy & Bioethics Departments, Monash University

E561, Menzies Buiding
Monash University
Clayton 3800


One important application of theories of collective intentionality is in contributing to explain the evolution of social understanding - and even of human thinking (Tomasello 2014).  A promising idea behind this approach is The Cooperative Evolutionary Hypothesis (CEH), namely, the idea that humans’ capacity for social cooperation is at the heart of the capacity of the species to understand others’ mental states and behaviour, leading to an explanation of how humans came to share thoughts and language. However, some of the most popular attempts to pursue CEH  face important problems.  In this talk, I take Tomasello’s account (2016,2014, 2008) as a leading  example of a central theoretical strand in the field that faces such insurmountable problems.  I argue that Tomasello et al’s analysis of cooperation and spontaneous help is problematic. Problems result from assuming that the right account of joint action and simple forms of shared intentionality is given by Bratman’s theory of shared intentions and its underlying assumptions.  I end by proposing an alternative framework for understanding shared intentionality that can help substantiate CEH.

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