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Michael Bratman: Acting and Thinking Together

Lecture by Michael Bratman (Stanford) organized in cooperation with Studium Generale

We do many things together including singing duets, dancing, and building. We engage in friendships and love, we practice the art of conversation, and we collaborate on scientific projects. Collaboration and cooperation play a central role in everyday life. In all these activities we act together in characteristic ways. How do we do it? How do we effortlessly engage with others in complex ways that seem unavailable to other species?

We share intentions, even if they are not always explicitly articulated. When two people dance the tango, for instance, they do not engage with each other strategically, but they share a conception of what they are doing together. Prior exchanges of promises are not necessary for shared activities. Distinguished philosopher Michael Bratman explains what is at stake in shared intentionality. His approach is premised on the thesis that planning lies at the core of what makes human beings special as compared to other animals. Focusing on small-scale cases, Bratman argues that shared intentionality requires nothing more than individual planning strategies. The explanatory power of this approach becomes apparent in particular when he extends it to provide an innovative model of shared deliberation.

Michael Bratman

Michael E. Bratman is ‘U.G. and Abbie Birch Durfee’ Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, and Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. His latest book is Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together (2014). He has been awarded several fellowships and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association, and was Chair of the National Board of the American Philosophical Association. In 2014 he received the American Philosophical Association's Philip L. Quinn Prize "in recognition of service to philosophy and philosophers, broadly construed."


This lecture is organized by the Faculty of Philosophy in cooperation with Studium Generale Groningen. It  is part of a series of lectures by prominent thinkers, organized on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Philosophy as one of the ten Faculties of the University of Groningen.

When & Where?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015, 8 pm
Aula, Academy Building, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

See also:

April 23-24 two-day workshop: Shared Actions and Collective Responsibilities: How to Construct or Resist Social Reality
with Michael Bratman and Sally Haslanger

Last modified:17 September 2020 5.27 p.m.