Planning and Its Function in Our Lives

Journal of Applied Philosophy 41 (1):1-15 (2024)
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Abstract

Our capacity for planning agency is a core capacity that underlies interrelated forms of mind-shaped practical organization: cross-temporal organization of individual agency, shared agency, social rules, and rule-guided organized institutions. A function of our capacity for planning agency is the support of these forms of practical organization. I highlight Peter Godfrey-Smith's contrast between the ‘Wright function’ of something as ‘the effect it has which explains why it is there’ and ‘Cummins functions’ that ‘are capacities or effects of components of systems, which are salient in the explanation of capacities of the larger system’. Drawing on Paul Grice's strategy of ‘creature construction’, I articulate a sequence of nested constructions: from temporally extended planning agency to shared agency to shared policies to social rules to rule-guided organized institutions. We see our capacity for planning agency as part of an explanation of how we achieve such practical organization, and as having nested Cummins functions of supporting those forms of organization. This sheds light on related ideas in H.L.A. Hart's theory of law, a challenge from J. David Velleman, the centrality of such forms of organization to the philosophy of action, and the moral and political significance of our capacity for planning agency.

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Michael Bratman
Stanford University

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