, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 25–52 | Cite as

We-intentions, free-riding, and being in reserve

  • Raimo Tuomela
  • Kaarlo Miller


A person can intend to achieve his own personal aims and ends, but he can also intend to promote the goals of his groups or collectives. In many cases of collective action these two types of intention will coincide, but they need not, and when they clash, collective action dilemmas, like free-riderism, will emerge. In this paper we discuss and analyze a central kind of group-intentions termed we-intentions, and distinguish between absolute and conditional we-intentions. The analyses of the latter are then applied to a study of two related social phenomena: the agent's standing in reserve and free-riding.

It is our claim that when the agent is intentionally in reserve, this involves his having a specific conditional we-intention to participate in the group's action. On the other hand, if he intends to free-ride, he intends not to participate. We also discuss and analyze different types of free-rider intentions. A person can also have a more complex intention concerning the group's action: He can have a conditional personal intention to free-ride combined with a conditional reserve member's we-intention to participate in the group's action. This may indicate that his motives are confused or mixed, but in most cases it can be taken to express his uncertainty of the fulfillment of the relevant conditions of his actions.

A similar uncertainty of other players' actions is also embedded in various game-theoretic settings, and we conclude the paper by representing some free-riding situations in terms of game-theoretic structures. We claim that not only Prisoner's Dilemma but also other games, in particular Chicken, are relevant for studies of free-riding.


Collective Action Relevant Condition Social Phenomenon Similar Uncertainty Complex Intention 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raimo Tuomela
    • 1
  • Kaarlo Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of PhilosophyUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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