Toni Erskine (University of New South Wales): Coalitions of the Willing’ and the Shared Responsibility to Protect



There has been widespread support for the idea that the so-called ‘international community’ has a remedial moral responsibility to protect vulnerable populations from mass atrocities when their own governments fail to do so. Moreover, military intervention may, when necessary, be one means of discharging this proposed responsibility to protect or, more colloquially, ‘R2P’. But, where exactly is this responsibility located? In other words, which body or bodies can be expected to discharge a duty to safeguard those who lack the protection of – or, indeed, come under threat from – their own government? The question becomes particularly pressing when the United Nations is unwilling or unable to act and there is no one state to fill the breach.


In this talk, I will propose ‘coalitions of the willing’ – or temporary, purpose-driven, self-selected collections of states (and sometimes non-state and intergovernmental actors) – as one (likely provocative) answer to this question, and explore how the nature of such associations should inform the judgements of moral responsibility that we make in relation to them. Specifically, I will argue that the enhanced capacities with which individual agents can be imbued as members of certain types of informal association (namely those whose constituents have compatible interests, a concomitant willingness to cooperate, and some means of deliberating in order to coordinate their actions) lead to magnified individual responsibilities. Perhaps most controversially in the context of the R2P case, I will suggest that, under certain circumstances and when confronted with a moral imperative that would otherwise go unmet, states and other entities each have a duty to contribute to establishing such an ad hoc association, and then, if such an association is established, to consider, to coordinate, and – if viable – to participate in a collective endeavour.


Michael Bratman (Stanford): Acting and Thinking Together


We have an important capacity to act together, a capacity for shared intentional activity. Such shared activities are important in our lives, both instrumentally and intrinsically. A theory of human thought and action needs to be, in part, a theory of human thinking and acting together. Shared intentional activity of the sort of interest here is not merely strategic interaction; but it also need not be embedded in a framework of promises or the like.
My initial focus is on small-scale cases of shared intentional activity that need not be embedded in a larger institution and that do not involve asymmetric authority relations. I focus on duets rather than orchestras with conductors. I argue that if we begin with the planning theory of individual agency I sketched in Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason (1987), we can construct a model of robust forms of shared agency, a model that is broadly continuous – conceptually, metaphysically, and normatively – with resources already present in our theory of individual planning agency. Our capacity for individual planning agency and related forms of individual cross-temporal organization is also at the bottom of our capacity for robust forms of sociality.
In this lecture I develop and defend this approach, drawing on my recent book Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together (2014).
I discuss how this approach helps us understand important forms of shared deliberation in which we think together. I go on to consider kinds of group intention that may seem to fall outside this framework. And I consider some recent, important challenges to this plan-theoretic approach.



Gunnar Björnsson (Umeå University): Shared Responsibility


We naturally attribute both backward and forward-looking responsibility to groups. Understood strictly, such attributions might often seem illegitimate: the groups in question are rarely fully-fledged moral agents, and the responsibility attributions can rarely be understood as distributive. In previous work, however, I have argued that a general understanding of individual responsibility of both kinds extend non-mysteriously to irreducibly shared responsibility. In this talk, I spell out how the proposed account helps us understand the relation between individual and shared responsibility, explaining how the latter has independent normative significance and how it depends, but does not supervene, on the former.


Johanna Seibt (Aarhus University): Social Robotics: New forms of collective intentionality, new types of responsibility?


I shall highlight the significance of social ontology for the urgent task of developing legislation and policies for the quickly growing market in ‘social robotics’, i.e., the production of robots with social intelligence and affordances. Using a process-based ontological framework for social interactions I will clarify under which conditions it is justified to speak of ‘social’ robots or ‘robot sociality’—even if one does not subscribe to functionalism in the philosophy of mind—and which kinds of asymmetric social interactions generate which kinds of plural responsibilities.