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How Relative Economic Advantage Affects Agential Reasoning


In the philosophical literature on practical reasoning, much emphasis has been placed on ideals related to consistency and stability, from Rawls’ rational life plan to Michael Bratman’s focus on the stable intentions of self-governing agents. However, as I aim to show in my dissertation, this emphasis may be the result of theorists centering their own experience rather than an illustration of what is universally true of good agency. -Centric thinking is the tendency to center one’s experiences in how one learns and thinks about the world. Centering one’s experience is, on the one hand, perfectly natural and can be innocuous. On the other hand, however, doing so without noticing this role, and theorizing in a way that is meant to cover other agents’ experiences has the potential to enact harm. I identify two characteristics of harmful -centric thinking, the tendency to frame differences which result from circumstances as deficits and the potential to mask important contributions or skills among those who are different from the baseline. I then argue the aforementioned focus on stability may display a class-specific form of -centric thinking. Not only does a focus on stability assume that agents are themselves working under stable circumstances, it also may not be desirable or effective for all agents. I further argue that our theories of practical reasoning ought to have more flexibility in which norms are appropriate for different reasoners, and that an information-gathering stage for analyzing complexity would be a step in the right direction.

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