Equal Respect for Rational Agency

In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, vol. 10 (forthcoming)

Authors
Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
Individuals are owed equal respect. But on the basis of what property of individuals are they owed such respect? A popular Kantian answer —rational agency — appears less plausible in light of the growing psychological evidence that human choice is subject to a wide array of biases (framing, laziness, etc.); human beings are neither equal in rational agency nor especially robust rational agents. Defenders of this Kantian answer thus need a non-ideal theory of equal respect for rational agency, one that takes seriously our characteristic deficiencies of practical rationality without junking the notion that rational agency entitles us to equal respect. This article defends an understanding of respect for rational agency wherein the object of such respect is individuals’ aspiration to rationally govern their lives. This understanding of respect for rational agency retains the core notion of respect as a kind of deference, directs respect at persons, has suitably egalitarian implications, and does not require us to deny the aforementioned psychological evidence regarding the infirmities of human rationality.
Keywords respect  equality  rational agency  choice biases  Kantian ethics
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