Volume 35, 2018
The Joint Commitment Account
Telling and Mutual Obligations in Communicative Action
In telling the utterer enters into a relationship with an addressee. This relationship appears to be a normative one, i.e., it entails that an utterer has certain obligations to the addressee. But how can an act of telling create such obligations? In this paper, I propose what I call a collectivist account of telling. On this account, the core notion of telling is that of an utterer’s contribution to a joint action. Margaret Gilbert’s rich work on joint action emphasizes the obligations agents of joint action have to one another. This normatively robust view of joint action, coupled with the conception of core telling as a participatory act, points toward the possibility of explaining the obligations speakers have to their addressees as, at least in some cases, the sort of obligations participants in joint action quite generally have to each other to act in a way appropriate to the joint activity.