Department of Philosophy
PDA for spring 2006
I received a professional development assignment for the spring of 2006 to work on
my book manuscript entitled "Doing Things Together:; A naturalistic Approach." I was
able to do a substantial amount of research on joint action and animals, which has
prepared me to begin writing chapter three. I was also able to do some revisions on
Chapter one. Because I was committed to writing three other papers (on issues independent
from the book) during my leave I was not able to accomplish all that I had intended
to do on the manuscript. I did, however, manage to get two of the three papers that
I wrote in the spring accepted for publication and the third was the basis of a grant
proposal which was funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand. I offer some details
regarding these papers and the grant below.
In 2004 I began thinking about joint action in the context of scientific research.
A great deal of research across the natural and social sciences is done by teams or
small groups of researchers. The idea was to explore the ways in which the normative
and intentional structure of joint agency influenced, either positively or negatively,
the empirical success of team research. I was asked to participate in a session on
collaboration in science at the 2004 Philosophy of Science Association meeting in
Austin, TX and the paper I wrote for that was then revised and presented at the Episteme conference in the spring of 2006. Episteme is a new journal edited by Alvin Goldman of Rutgers University and each year they
hold a conference on some issue in social epistemology. The topic for 2006 was "The
Value of Dissent." My paper entitled "Group deliberation, Social Cohesion, and Scientific
Teamwork: Is there room for dissent?" will appear this fall in Episteme along with other selected papers from the conference.
The second paper I wrote during my leave was on the topic of group testimony. Recent
discussions of testimony have attempted to identify the conditions under which beliefs
acquired via testimony are justified, warranted, or count as knowledge. The debate
between reductivists and anti-reductivists rages on. Both sides of the debate assume
that the source of the testimony is an individual. But it is not only individuals
who testify. Groups routinely testify on a variety of matters. Consider, for instance,
the CIA's testimony regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the testimony
of medical associations such as the American Pediatrics Association. Although these
organizations have spokespeople, these people are providing the testimony of the organization.
I explore the consequences of acknowledging that groups, and not simply individuals,
can be the source of testimonial belief. Insofar as the justification of testimonial
belief depends in part on the reliability of the source there are distinct issues
that arise for group testimony. What could it mean for a group to be a reliable source
of testimony? Could a group be a reliable source of testimony on some matter even
if no member is a reliable source on that matter? On some accounts of the warrant
of testimonial belief we have a prima facie warrant to believe the testifier. Could
anything like this be the case for group testimony? Group testimony suggests that
we not only need to develop critical practices which assess the reliability of individual
speakers but practices which critically evaluate the reliability of groups. This
paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Social Epistemology.
The third paper I completed on my leave was a collaboration with my colleague Sondra
Bacharach (Victoria University, Wellington, NZ). The paper is entitled "Collective
Art and Collective Intention" and it argues that current accounts of interpretation
cannot easily provide a basis for interpreting collaboratively made artworks. This
is because most forms of intentionalism (theories of interpretation that appeal to
human intentions) are individualistic. They focus exclusively on the intentions of
individuals. We argue that intentionalism must acknowledge group or joint intentions
(the intentions of groups) in order to be able to interpret collaboratively made artwork.
This paper was the starting point for our Marsden Fast-Start grant proposal. We proposed
to explore the ways in which aesthetics and theories of joint agency might be used
to develop a richer theory of interpretation. The proposal commits us to writing
two papers, a catalogue for an art exhibit on collaborative art, and an edited collection
of papers on the topic of collaborative art and intentions. We received notification
in early September that our project was fully funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
We will receive 70,000 NZ dollars each year for the next two years, roughly 100,000
dollars. The money will be used to fund travel to and from NZ and to a variety of
conferences, archives, and museums throughout Europe.