Shared Intentionality and the Cooperative Evolutionary Hypothesis



Publication Details

Satne, G. L. & Salice, A. (2020). Shared Intentionality and the Cooperative Evolutionary Hypothesis. In A. Fiebich (Ed.), Minimal Cooperation and Shared Agency (pp. 71-92). Netherlands: Springer.


One important application of theories of collective intentionality concerns the evolution of social understanding and even of human thinking (Tomasello M, A natural history of human thinking, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2014). A promising idea behind this approach is the Cooperative Evolutionary Hypothesis (CEH), namely, the idea that humans’ capacity for social cooperation is at the heart of their ability to understand others’ mental states and behavior, leading to an explanation of how humans came to share thoughts and language. However, some of the most popular defenses of CEH face important problems. In this paper, we take Tomasello’s account (J Soc Ontol 2(1):117–123, 2016); A natural history of human thinking. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2014; Origins of human communication. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008) as a leading example of the CEH which faces such insurmountable problems. In particular, we argue that Tomasello’s analysis of cooperation and spontaneous help is problematic. We locate a source of such issues in the assumption that the right account of joint action and simple forms of shared intentionality is that which is offered by Bratman’s theory of shared intentions. The second part of the article proposes and defends an alternative framework for understanding shared intentionality that can help substantiate CEH.

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