Commitment in Joint Action

Authored by: John Michael

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of the Social Mind

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138827691
eBook ISBN: 9781315530178
Adobe ISBN: 9781315530161


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Joint action is a pervasive and important feature of human sociality. From cooking meals to dancing, playing music, painting houses, and taking walks, humans routinely do things together – sometimes to achieve shared goals that could not otherwise be achieved, and sometimes because acting together is intrinsically pleasurable. In a broad sense, joint action can be defined as ‘any form of social interaction whereby two or more individuals coordinate their actions in space and time to bring about a change in the environment’ (Sebanz et al., 2006: 70; Butterfill, 2012). Although many species engage in joint action in this broad sense, such as chimpanzees hunting and bees swarming, it has been argued that humans are uniquely able and motivated to coordinate their actions in space and time in order to bring about shared goals, and do so more flexibly and in a wider variety of contexts than other species (e.g. Melis & Semmann, 2010; Tomasello, 2009; Silk, 2009; Searle, 1990).

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