In his article Playing Ones Part Tomas Smith raises many important points regarding possible understandings of joint intention. For example, his claim that we engage in joint-decision making “… against a background of circumstances which we do not choose and cannot control.”1 is a key fact that I think many writers miss.
One part of the paper that I am struggling to make my mind up on concerns the possibility of rationally intending one proposition a that relates two objects with a non-symmetric relation in one order and at the same time not intending a proposition b that is has the same objects in the opposite order but with the converse relation to a.
This much easier to understand with an example so I’ll quote Smith – please let me know what you’re intuitions on this case are in the poll below – if you do not feel you grasp the philosophical technicalities just go with your gut feeling – use comments section if you want to explain your answer.2
” (G1) God intends that Christ is betrayed by Judas.
(G2) God intends that Judas betray Christ.
<Christ is betrayed by Judas> and <Judas betrays Christ> are necessarily equivalent and constitutively related, and, arguably, identical, because one is compounded out of two objects and a non-symmetric relation in one order, and the other out of those same objects and the converse relation, in the opposite order. Nevertheless, if it is part of God’s plan that Christ be sacrificed, but no part of his plan that any man sin, then (G1) may be true but (G2) false.3 “
1. Smith, “Playing one’s part.” Review of Philosophy and Psychology: special issue on joint action – what is shared? 2, no. 2(2011) p. 231
2. the existence/nature of God is supposed to be irrelevant to this example – so you should be able to replace the deity with a more down to earth agent if that makes you feel more comfortable.
3. Smith, “Playing one’s part.” Review of Philosophy and Psychology: special issue on joint action – what is shared? 2, no. 2(2011) p.240