Anne-Sofie Munk Autzen: "On Collaborative Improvisation and Shared Intention"

Högre seminariet i estetik

Anne-Sofie Munk Autzen, University of Copenhagen: "On Collaborative Improvisation and Shared Intention"

In recent years, a number of theorists, including Paisley Livingston, Garry L. Hagberg, Sondra Bacharach, and Deborah Tollefsen, have brought the discussion on joint action (or shared agency) to bear on philosophy of art, specifically on the debate concerning the role shared intentions play in collaborative art-making. The basic approach to understanding joint action as distinct from parallel individual action has been to appeal to knowledge states and intentions that are in some way shared by participants, and which shape and inform the actions of individual participants. However, as Deborah Tollefsen (2014) suggests, standard accounts of shared intention do not easily extend to cases of joint action that occur spontaneously without reflection or planning, but that nevertheless involve intentions. This is because these accounts are based on the idea of conscious and planned action and focus mostly on the planning of joint action (the project) rather than the execution of joint action (the process). Certain collaborative art forms involving improvisation such as ensemble jamming, contact improvisation, and improvisational theatre provide interesting cases for the current discussion. Given that participants to an improvised joint action do not know of all their partners’ intentions from the outset nor throughout the course of action, what sorts of shared intention might be in place? In this talk, I review some of ways in which theorists have handled this question in philosophy of art, and identify some challenges facing these approaches that pertain to the open nature of improvisation. I will then consider an alternative, and perhaps more simple, approach to understanding cases of improvised joint action by focusing on participants’ ‘shared background’ for acting together. I model this approach on an account of shared intention developed by Stephen Butterfill (2016).