The Political Dimensions of Quotidian Choice and the Expressive Theory of Rationality
Breeden, Ann Lloyd
Richardson, Henry S.
Many of our everyday choices take place within sprawling and complex political structures and processes that bring about outcomes that we view as harms. Yet, because an individual's actions do not contribute measurably to bringing about the harms--and the individual's withdrawal from the process would not mitigate the harms--it is difficult to understand her affiliation with the harms and why she has reason for concern about involvement in the processes that bring them about. The expressivist account of rationality explains both.I will show that political dimensions pervade everyday, ostensibly non-political choices, particularly market choices. Those frequently overlooked dimensions derive from the larger political processes and structures in which the choices are embedded; they give the choices expressive significance as political acts; and, because the political dimensions often overlap--and conflict--with agents' character-defining commitments, those dimensions also give the choices expressive significance as acts of character. In short, in making the choices, the agent is expressing a stance on the choices' political dimensions and affiliating herself with the larger structures and their consequences. To overlook the political dimensions and resulting expressive significance of such choices is to exclude from deliberation elements necessary to ensure rational decisions by expressivist standards--to fail to ensure that "one's actions adequately express one's rational attitudes toward the people and things one cares about."I draw on Elizabeth Anderson's expressive theory of rationality and Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky's expressive theory for the rationality of voting to establish the expressive account. I also consider two theories of intention that seek to establish agents' guilt or accountability for harms that result from the actions of larger groups of which they are part--Margaret Gilbert's theory of group guilt and Christopher Kutz's theory of complicity--showing why they do not succeed and how the expressive account overcomes or avoids the hurdles they face.
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