Workshop “Communication and Cooperation”, June 4-5, 2018

Venue: University of Milan, SALA ENZO PACI, Via Festa del Perdono, 7, 20122 Milan, Italy


June 4, 2018

9.45-10.00      Welcome and Introduction


10.00-11.00    Glenda Satne (UAH/University of Wollongong): Communication and Shared Intentionality

11.00-11.40    Olle Blomberg (University of Lund): Conversation and joint communicative action

11.40-12.10    Coffee Break


12.10-12.50    Anja Berninger (University of Stuttgart): Shared narratives and joint action

12.50-13.30    Filip Buekens (KU Leuven/TILPS): Game Theory, coordination and matters of taste

13.30-15.00    Lunch


15.00-15.40    Maria Chiara Bruttomesso (University of Verona): Cooperation, solidarity and persons

15.40-16.20    Silvia Tossut (Vita Salute San Raffaele University): Communicating collective identities: common fate versus common goals

16.20-16.50    Coffee Break


16.50-17.30    Borut Tripn (University of Ljubljana), Anna Dobrosovestnova (University of Vienna), Sebastian Götzendorfer (University of Vienna): Lying: more or less

17.30-18.30    Abraham Roth (Ohio State University): Reasons at hand and secondhand: communication, testimonial warrant, and joint action

20.00               Dinner


June 5, 2018


10.00-11.00    Matteo Bianchin (University of Milan-Biccoca): Agent-neutral roles and agent-neutral reasons: how does social cognition shape the normative infrastructure of cooperation?

11.00-11.40    Axel Seemann (Bentley University): Communication and Cooperation in Joint Contexts

11.40-12.10    Coffee break


12.10-12.50    Marija Jankovic (Davidson College): The collectivist account of assertion

12.50-13.30    Sandy Berkovski (Bilkent University): Manners as cuing system




 Glenda Satne (UAH/University of Wollongong): Communication and Shared Intentionality

There are many different forms of joint action and shared activity. While some of these require little communication and exchange between participants, communication can make joint action smother and help avoid misunderstandings. But the links between communication and joint action run deeper. Communication itself can be seen as a form of human collaborative activity. A tradition springing from the works of Grice (1957, 1975), and further elaborated by Sperber and Wilson (1996), Clark (1996) and Tomasello (2008), seeks to illuminate the nature of communication as a special form of shared intentional activity by describing the set of special intentional and inferential processes that are characteristic of such form of exchange. Furthermore, communication can be seen as a root form of collaborative activity, one that provides the platform for more sophisticated forms of shared activity as those dependent on sharing norms, instructions or joint practical reasoning.  Thus, the ability to engage in simple forms of communication can be thought to be prior in development compared to other abilities for shared activity. In this talk, I explore the social infrastructure of human communication understood as a root form of shared intentional activity. I argue based both on conceptual and empirical considerations, that the traditional view championed by Grice and others is not suited for this task. I present an alternative inspired by recent philosophical debates on the role of the second person that challenge the priority that “third-personal” views, based on observation, inference and theory, have had in shaping our views about the topic.

Olle Blomberg (University of Lund): Conversation and joint cooperative action

Human conversation is paradigmatically a joint cooperative endeavour. According to Hornsby (1994), we cannot understand the acts of speakers and the recognition of these acts by hearers unless we there is a kind of “harmony” or “reciprocity” between conversational participants. This, I will argue, is correct. But what does it imply about the psychology and ontology of human conversations? According to Meijers (2002), the cooperative aspect of conversation implies that the participants in a conversation must have primitive we-intentions and thus cannot be captured by reductive analysis of joint action. Others argue that it is the “jointness” rather than the “cooperativeness” that cannot be reductively understood, since conversation involves an irreducible form of joint thinking (see e.g. Rödl 2015). In this talk I evaluate these two challenges to a broadly Gricean understanding of conversation based on reductive accounts of joint intentional action (e.g. Bratman 2014; Ludwig 2016). I argue that the challenge from the cooperative aspect of conversation can be met (see Jankovic 2014), but that the jointness challenge is more serious. Whether a reductive account is possible depends on whether a reductive account of common knowledge can be provided.


 Anja Berninger (University of Stuttgart): Shared Narratives and Joint Actions

Recently, Gallagher and Tollefsen have highlighted the importance of shared narratives for collective actions. In my talk, I want to explore this connection in somewhat more detail. More specifically, I want to discuss how shared narratives may facilitate and coordinate joint actions. In the first section of the talk, I will briefly analyze the different ways in which narratives can be shared. I show that only some of these (i.e. endorsement and active engagement in narrative building) are relevant to forming group identities. I then turn to the relation of these specific forms of shared narratives and joint action. I highlight three different ways in which these narratives are relevant here: (a) Shared narratives limit the range of possible actions each group member takes into consideration. Thus, certain forms of action may seem off limit, because they conflict with shared narratives; (b) shared narratives place certain demands on our actions. Thus, on the basis of a shared narratives certain actions may be required of group members; (c) shared narratives facilitate joint actions by determining not only the actions we perform, but also the way in which these are performed.

Filip Buekens (KULeuven & TILPS) Game Theory, Coordination and Matters of Taste

This paper examines the communicative function of public pronouncements about what is tasty, agreeable or attractive, followed by an equally public endorsement or rejection. The typical and expected reaction to contributions like ‘This is tasty’ or ‘The roller coaster is fun’ in a conversational setting is not ‘how come?’ or ‘How do you know that?’, but a reply that reveals one’s own attitude towards an object or state of affairs, thus revealing conflict or alignment over the issue at hand. Judgements of taste (their content and the speech acts performed) are explored in the context of a cooperative view of communication developed by Michael Tomasello, which classifies communicative actions in terms of what we want from others when we communicate to them. We also use game theory. The game-theoretical connotation for a public dispute over what to like or to prefer is a co-ordination game like Battle of the Sexes. Speech act theory traditionally allows that speakers can perform different speech acts simultaneously. Combining both views, we argue that the public pronouncements that give rise to seemingly faultless disagreement have informative, requestive and alignment-seeking dimensions, which make different propositional contents salient. In a dispute over whether something is tasty (fun,  …) a speaker and her  intended audience usually play two games -- the game of letting others know something (about oneself), and the alignment of attitudes game, i.e. the game of making moves in the direction of seeking alignment over what to prefer, or what would be preferable, in a given situation. Both games make different propositions salient. I conclude with a brief evaluation of current disputes over what’s tasty (comical, …) between contextualists and assessment relativists in matters of personal taste.


Maria-Chiara Bruttomesso (University of Verona): Cooperation, Solidarity and Persons

According to Tomasello (2009), what distinguishes the human being from all the other animals is altruistic cooperation. Cooperation, inside the debate on collective intentionality, has acquired several meanings, connected to linguistic practices, joint commitments or simply bodily coordination (Fiebich 2017, Gilbert 1998, Tomasello 2016). However, the aspect of personal flourishing as a result of the practices of sharing has been largely overlooked. Drawing on Scheler’s theory of the four essential group-forms (GW II), I reassess the community of persons. I argue that the co-execution (Mitvollzug) of certain kinds of acts is guided by a special kind of cooperation, that, although based on a shared language of expressivity, leads to the maximum level of personal individuation. Differently from the group-form of society, grounded for Scheler on the natural language, communication in the community of persons should be intended first and foremost as an affective exchange entailing the reciprocity of values and a precise moral posture towards each other: solidarity. I mean to show that, when dealing with persons, solidarity constitutes a type of cooperation that rests not only on interdependence, mutual responsiveness and meshing subplans (Bratman 2014), but also on the absolute co-responsibility of their members for one another.

Silvia Tossut (Vita Salute San Raffaele University): Communicating collective identities: common fate vs. common goals

Consider the expression “We’re on the same boat”. It is a powerful means to create a collective, especially in periods of crisis, since it presents a “we”, in which people share a common fate. We should help each other, because the boat is going astray.

I show that the notion of “we” embedded in expressions like this is holistic (in the sense adumbrated by List & Pettit), and that such a notion creates collectives based on a common fate perception. People belonging to such collectives have a great sense of membership and there is great intergroup cooperation. Yet, the holistic account has negative consequences too. Zizzo experimentally shows that collectives so construed promote discriminative behaviors against outgroup people. I argue that the distributive understanding of “we” can ground the construction of inclusive collective identities, based on the recognition of a common goal. Inclusive collective identities can be promoted by certain usages of language, leading to the recognition of the common goal. Intergroup cooperation and unity can be enhanced without increasing outgroup discriminations. I conclude with some examples of political communication prompting both kinds of collectives.


Borut Trpin (University of Ljubljana), Anna Dobrosovestnova (University of Vienna), Sebastian Götzendorfer (University of Vienna): Lying: More or less

For a communication act to be considered as a lie the liar has to have an intent to deceive or mislead the dupe (i.e., recipient of the lie). Hence, lying relies on the collaborative mechanisms underlying communication at large (Tomasello, 2010) as it only works when the recipient of a lie extends at least some degree of trust into the message and the liar as the source of the message. Despite the common definition of a lie as the liar believing A but asserting not-A, very few lies are in fact so clear-cut (Krauss, 2017). In our everyday lives more often than not we are on the initiating or receiving side of partial lies — when the assertion is false or misleading only to some degree. Linguistically, such lies are commonly manifested through the use of epistemic modals, e.g. when a liar believes “ probably A”, but asserts “ probably not-A”. We argue that partial lies are more damaging as they are harder to detect. We do so by using simulation studies to investigate (graded) trust dynamics in relation to partial lies, while following the principles of Bayesian epistemology for partial beliefs. That is, we investigate how much (epistemic) damage an agent suffers depending on her level of trust and the severity of a liar’s lies.

Abraham Roth (Ohio State University): Reasons at hand and secondhand: communication, testimonial warrant, and joint action

Much of what we believe is acquired through communication or testimony.  What sort of warrant or reason is there for such belief?  Differing conceptions of communicative interaction afford varying accounts of testimonial warrant.  This paper will survey different depictions of interaction with an eye toward assessing the limitations of the corresponding epistemologies.  The focus will then turn to communicative interaction in the context of joint or shared agency.  In a broad sense, almost any communication might count as joint agency.  But a narrow construal will suggest the possibility of a distinctive form of warrant - one that not only secures belief, but also entitles the hearer to the speaker’s reasons for belief.


Matteo Bianchin (University of Milan-Biccoca): Agent-neutral roles and agent-neutral reasons: how does social cognition shape the normative infrastructure of cooperation?

It has been recently argued that agent neutral reasons can be traced back to the understanding of agent neutral roles connected with joint action and group agency. In this paper, I suggest that things are more nuanced. While understanding agent-neutral roles is required by joint actions and group agency, joint intentions and more generally group reasons do not per se provide agents with reasons that are agent-neutral. On any reading they involve a pro-nominal back-reference to the agent and thus provide agents with agent-relative reasons at best. I will contend, however, that the development of mature socio-cognitive capacities connected with a representational theory of mind and involved in complex forms of cooperation is essential for forming agent-neutral reasons. Drawing on a broad distinction between minimal and complex collective action and on a dual-system account of mindreading, I will argue in particular that reasons for action emerge in this context that go beyond group reasons. Thus, while agent-neutral reasons and our capacity to access them cannot be traced back straightaway to joint action and group agency, they can still be taken to emerge from the psychological infrastructure of cooperation as social cognition develops along the line suggested.

Axel Seemann (Bentley University): Communication and Cooperation in Joint Contexts

In this talk I investigate the relation between communication and cooperation through the lens of joint perceptual phenomena.  This lens is promising because joint attention is, in non-linguistic cases, plausibly dependent on communication but not co-operation: in order to jointly attend to an object with you, I have to enter an intersubjective, and thus communicative, relation with you. But I do not have to co-operate with you: we can jointly attend to an object without linguistically communicating about or jointly acting on it. Drawing out this point is the first step of the talk. The second step is to ask what makes the joint constellation co-operative. A natural view is that co-operation requires action. I argue that this view is plausible as long as you think of the linguistic communication about a jointly perceived object in terms of speech acts. The view that emerges is that social perception is fundamentally communicative, and linguistic communication about the socially perceived object is fundamentally co-operative. In a third step I show why joint attention is an interesting test case for thinking about the relation between communication and cooperation, and ask what the general implications of the view sketched here are.


Marija Jankovic (Davidson College): The collectivist account of assertion 

There is a difference between asserting (or telling) something and openly and intentionally letting someone know that same thing (cf. Grice 1957). Compare starting to pack my suitcase in front of you with telling you “I am leaving now.” These actions convey the same information. So what is the point of telling you instead of letting you know? Philosophers writing on testimony have pointed out that in telling—but not in letting know—the speaker enters into a relationship with an addressee (cf. Elgin 2005, Moran 2005, Hinchman 2005). The core of this relationship has been thought to consist in different things, but on all accounts, it is a normative relationship that entails that a speaker has certain obligations to the addressee (e.g., to assert truthfully). On individualist accounts of communication, it is mysterious how a communicative act might create such obligations. In (Jankovic 2014), I have defended a collectivist account of communicative action, on which the core notion of communication is that of a collective intentional action. This account offers a new way of framing the distinction between telling and letting know. The basic difference is that only in telling the speaker invites the audience to take part in a joint action with her. If so, the obligations speakers have to their addressees are an example of the sort of obligations (originally described in Gilbert 1989) participants in joint action generally have to each other to act in a way appropriate to the joint activity in question. Assume, for the sake of illustration, that telling, as a speaker’s part in a certain communicative action, is appropriately performed if the speaker utters truthfully. If so, the speaker owes a truthful assertion to the addressee. Thus, the normative relation present in testimony is a consequence of the already recognized broader principles that govern collective action. An additional and surprising payoff of the collectivist account of assertion is that it can explain how the wrong of lying differs from the wrong of deception, which is something that most existing accounts of lying fail to do (cf. Shiffrin 2014)

Sandy Berkovski (Bilkent University): Manners as a cuing system

Building on the earlier work of Elias (2000), Goffman (1971), and more recently, Bicchieri (2006) and Posner (2000), I argue that manners consist of a class of norms governing interactions between strangers. The purpose of such interactions is to collect information about the individual on the basis of a short encounter and to evaluate his potential as a social cooperator. Analogously, it is also in in presenting oneself as a valuable cooperator. A set of properties will be associated with such a cooperator. For example, such a cooperator will be non-hostile, reliable, predictable, trustworthy. These ‘deep’ properties cannot be revealed in a short encounter. There must be a further family of surface properties readily available to a casual observer which would serve as indicators of deep properties. A central purpose of the rules of courtesy is in establishing correlation rules between deep and surface properties. Manners provide a cuing system, whereby we are able to collect information about the individual on the basis of a short encounter. Manners and etiquette are often condemned on the grounds of promoting hypocrisy, superficiality, scripted behaviour. But these features are nothing but ‘handicaps’, even if imperfect. They are essential for weeding out cheaters by making deception and cue manipulation costlier.


Theodor Geiger’s Legacy to the Legal Sciences

22-23 May 2018, Sala Napoleonica, Palazzo Greppi,

Via S. Antonio 12, State University of Milan


Theodor Geiger (1891-1952) is commonly known as a prominent figure in the field of Sociology. In Germany and Denmark, he mainly worked on social stratification, social mobility, and sociology of law. This conference focuses specifically on his legacy to the legal sciences. In his "Preliminary Studies for a Sociology of Law" (1947), Geiger attempts to conceptualize normative and legal phenomena in a value-free and purely sociological way by doing away with metaphysical concepts and reducing to a minimum the use of psychological and quasi-psychological concepts. The degree of validity of social norms is defined as the sum of the probability that, if a certain type of circumstance s (from the German Situation) is instantiated, a social actor performs a certain action g (from Gebaren, “behavior”) plus the probability that, in the case s/he does not perform g, the social environment Ω carries out a negative reaction r (Reaktion) against her/him. Where r is monopolized by an adjudicating authority Δ, connected to the political power Π, Geiger speaks specifically of a legal norm. Geiger devotes much attention (1) to the causes of the emergence and differentiation of legal norms from other social norms, (2) to the way Δ may influence laypeople's behavior and vice versa, (3) to the way the legislative bodies Θ connected to Π may influence Δ’s activity of by enacting two types of normative sentences: i.e., proclamative and declarative normative sentences, (4) to the nature of value-judgments, by supporting—against the Uppsala school—an error theory avant la lettre, (5) to the relations between law and morality, (6) to those between law and power, and (7) to legal conscience or consciousness (Rechtsgewissen or -bewusstsein). The conference is divided in four sessions and presents the first Italian translation of Geiger's "Preliminary Studies", a translation promoted by and realized under the guidance of the late Prof. Morris L. Ghezzi, to whose memory this conference is dedicated. The afternoon session of May 22nd, will be in English and Spanish. The other three sessions (the morning session of May 22nd. and the two sessions of May 23rd) will be in Italian.



May 22

Morning (working language: Italian)

10.00-10.15   Greetings from Gianluigi Gatta (Director of Department “Cesare Beccaria”)

10.15-10.30   Amedeo Giovanni Conte (University of Pavia)

10.30-11.15   Realino Marra (Università degli Studi di Genova)

11.15-11.30   Coffee Break

11.30-12.15   Mauro Barberis (University of Trieste)

12.15-13.00   Carla Faralli (University of Bologna)

13.00-15.00   Lunch Break

Afternoon (working languages: English and Spanish)

15.00-15.45   Gregorio Robles (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid)

15.45-16.30   A. Javier Treviño: (Wheaton College, Massachussetts)

16.30-16.45   Coffee Break

16.45-17.30   Edoardo Fittipaldi (Università degli Studi di Milano)

17.30-18.00   Riccardo Mazzola (Università degli Studi di Milano)

May 23

Morning (working language: Italian)

10.00-10.30  “Tribute to Morris L. Ghezzi”, Simonetta Balboni Ghezzi & Nicoletta Bersier Ladavac

10.30-11-15   Alberto Febbrajo (University of Macerata)

11.15-11.30   Coffee Break

11.30-12.15   Carlo Enrico Paliero (Università degli Studi di Milano)

12.15-13.00   Raffaele Caterina (Università degli Studi di Torino)

13.00-15.00   Lunch Break

Morning (working language: Italian)

15.00-15.45   Antonio La Spina (LUISS Guido Carli, Rome)

15.45-16.30   Marco Quiroz Vitale (Università degli Studi di Milano)

16.30-17.15   Enrico Damiani (Università degli Studi di Milano)

17.15-17.30   Coffee Break

17.30-18.00   General Discussion