In Cognitive pragmatics: The mental processes of communication (2011), Bruno Bara presents a detailed summary of a theory of human communication, called “cognitive pragmatics,” which he has been developing since the 1980s together with a number of colleagues, and has been presented in several scientific articles and in a recent book (Bara 2010). The basic tenets of this theory are that communication is a cooperative activity, in which human agents engage intentionally, and that for communication to take place successfully all the participants must share certain mental states. Coherently with these assumptions, cognitive pragmatics aims at clarifying what mental states are constitutive of communication, and what cognitive structures underlie the cooperative activities involved in communication.
To this position we are strongly sympathetic. However, we think that the theoretical framework currently offered by cognitive pragmatics is inadequate to account for the cooperative nature of human communication. In particular, we believe that to deal with human cooperation, the types of mental states considered by cognitive pragmatics should be extended; that the concepts of conversation and behavior game do not adequately explain the dynamics of human communication; and that the role of communicative intentions is not sufficiently clarified.
In this commentary we first discuss the issue of collective activities. Next we consider some problems related to conversation and behavior games, and bring in the issue of normativity, that we consider as a crucial component of human interaction. We then discuss the relationship between communicative intentions and normativity, and finally draw some conclusions.