From Simple to Composite Agency: On Kirk Ludwig’s From Individual to Plural Agency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


According to Kirk Ludwig, we use the term ‘action’ in a secondary and derivative sense when we talk about collective actions. I argue that, on the contrary, collective actions are actions in a primary and non-derivative sense. First, this is because some primitive actions are collective primitive actions, where a primitive action is an action that can be performed directly, without intending to do something else by which it is brought about. Secondly, it is because (individual and collective) composites of primitive actions are also actions in a primary and non-derivative sense. I also claim that Ludwig exaggerates the contrast between individual and collective action by introducing a “sole agency requirement” into his account of the logical form of individual action sentences. I argue that sole agency is merely typically pragmatically implicated by such sentences. If I say, ‘I turned on the light’, after we each flipped one of two switches that together turned on the light, then I might be misleading the audience, but what I say is true. Finally, I argue that, contra Ludwig, individuals often have “I-intentions” to bring about an event that can be satisfied even if there are co-agents of the event.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy


  • Collective action, Primitive action, Composite action, Kirk Ludwig, Basic action, Collective action sentences, Individual action sentences, Sole agency requirement
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Social Ontology (JSO)
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019 Mar
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

This paper has been submitted to the Journal of Social Ontology, as an invited contribution to forthcoming special issue on Kirk Ludwig's two volumes on Collective Action (OUP, 2016 and 2017).

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