We-Narratives and the Stability and Depth of Shared Agency


The basic approach to understanding shared agency (or joint action) has been to identify individual intentional states that are somehow “shared” by participants and that contribute to guiding and informing the actions of individual participants. But, as Michael Bratman suggests, there is a problem of stability and depth that any theory of shared agency needs to solve. Given that participants in a joint action might form shared intentions for different reasons, what binds them to one another such that they have some reason for continuing to participate in the joint action in the face of conflicting reasons? This is particularly pressing in cases of joint actions that unfold over long periods of time. There are a variety of ways that the problem of stability and depth of shared intention might be addressed. We review some of those ways in section 1. We do not intend to challenge these approaches. Instead, in this article, we want to suggest that narrative is an additional, perhaps in some cases a predominant, way in which stability and depth are achieved. According to some theories, narrative plays a crucial role in the development of the self. Our suggestion is that the narratives we tell about our joint projects contribute to the development of a stable and deep “we.”

Publication Title

Philosophy of the Social Sciences