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Michael E. Bratman (Stanford) – “Shared and Institutional Agency” (U. Groningen Centre for PPE)

8 March 2023, 3:15 PM5:00 PM CET


Colloquium of the Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), University of Groningen

Faculty of Philosophy, Room Omega
March 8, 2023, 15.15 – 17.00

Shared and Institutional Agency

Michael E. Bratman

Abstract. In this talk I discuss some main ideas in my 2022 book, Shared and Institutional Agency: Toward a Planning Theory of Human Practical Organization. Our human lives involve remarkable forms of practical organization: diachronic organization of individual activity; small-scale organization of shared action; and the organization of institutions. A theory of human action should help us understand these multiple forms of human practical organization and their inter-relations. A key is our capacity for planning agency. Drawing on earlier work on the roles of planning agency in the cross-temporal and small-scale social organization of our agency, I focus on the role of our planning agency within our organized institutions. I draw on ideas, inspired by H.L.A. Hart, that our organized institutions are rule-guided, and that to understand this we need a theory of social rules. I draw on the planning theory of shared intention to understand social rules. I understand an organized institution as involving authority-according social rules of procedure in a way that makes room for pluralistic divergence. This leads to a model of institutional intention and––drawing on ideas from Harry Frankfurt––institutional intentional agency. The account charts a path between views of, among others, Kirk Ludwig, Phillip Pettit, and Scott Shapiro. It sees our capacity for planning agency as a core capacity that underlies not only string quartets and informal social rules but also, thereby, the rule-guided structure of organized institutions. And it supports adjustments in views of mind, intention and agency that are built into Donald Davidson’s fieldshaping work.

Biography. I have been at Stanford University since 1974.  My main research interests are in the philosophy of action, where this includes issues about social agency and about practical rationality. My book publications are Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason (1987); Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency (1999);  Structures of Agency:  Essays (2007);  Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together (2014); Planning, Time, and Self-Governance: Essays in Practical Rationality (2018); and Shared and Institutional Agency (2022).  I am a co-editor of Introduction to Philosophy:  Classical and Contemporary  Readings. I have been awarded an ACLS Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Stanford University Humanities Center. I am a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. My joint paper with David Israel and Martha Pollack, “Plans and Resource-Bounded Practical Reasoning,” Computational Intelligence 4 (1988): 349-355,  was the recipient of the 2008 International Foundation of Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems influential paper award. I have been President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association, and was Chair of the National Board of the American Philosophical Association from 2011-2014. In 2014 I received the American Philosophical Association’s Philip L. Quinn Prize “in recognition of service to philosophy and philosophers, broadly construed.” In 2019 I received the Lebowitz Prize for philosophical achievement and contribution.


8 March 2023
3:15 PM–5:00 PM CET
Event Category:


Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Groningen
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University of Groningen
Oude Boteringestraat 52
Groningen, 9712 GL Netherlands
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