Many goals are too complex for one person to accomplish alone. Every day, we pool together our planning abilities with those around us to get things done.
The great English philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously said that in the state of nature, life is solitary, brutish and short -- as if nature designed people to act alone, rather than together. But acting together, this week's topic, is one of the most natural things in the world. If we never acted together, there would be no families, no teams, no countries. But what exactly is it to act together?
Suppose we’re outside and it starts to rain. We both run toward the door to the studio. We’re trying to do the same thing -- get into the studio and out of the rain. Though we’re acting at the same time, we aren’t acting together. So doing the same thing isn't enough.
Suppose we’re having a picnic. It starts to rain. I grab the food and put it in the cooler and run to the car. You fold up the blanket and run to the car. Now we’ve done something together -- something that neither of us did alone. We jointly put the picnic stuff into the car. In the earlier example, we were each trying to keep ourselves dry; in this case, we are both trying to accomplish the same thing, keeping the picnic stuff dry.
But don’t we still perform two separate and distinct actions in your scenario? I put the blanket in. You put the food in. No togetherness there.
We still do separate actions, but we share an over-arching goal. We break this goal down into smaller tasks and we divide them up. We each take responsibility for a share of these sub-tasks and rely on the other to do the rest. That’s acting together!
Still, suppose that neither of us knows the others plans or intentions. My plan is to get the food and come back for the blanket. Your plan is to get the blanket and come back for the food. Did we really do it “together?” In this case, it seems more like a lucky accident than something we intentionally did together. Don’t our plans and intentions have to be interdependent, if we are to act together?
By now its getting pretty complex. We have to share an overarching goal. We have to agree on a way of dividing up the tasks so that each of our contributions to the common goal dovetails with our partner’s contributions. And we have to make a commitment to actually doing our part, while relying on our partner to do his too.
So I've got doubts. Does it have to be that complicated and cerebral? Think of ants. They act together all the time to build their hills and gather their food. But they don't go around forming complicated beliefs about each other or making commitments to each other.
I'm sure we'll clear everything up on the program.