Personal autonomy

Personal autonomy or self-government is not an easy idea to pin down. Usage of the term can be ambiguous; is the emphasis on the self or is the emphasis on the government? Is it much the same thing as agency? How closely is it connected to ideas about rationality, independence, liberty, psychological unity and accountability? The survey on the topic in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy demonstrates the difficulty of applying the term as a diagnostic label.The significance of personal autonomy for both ethics and politics means that, while there is wide disagreement, the concept cannot be avoided. There is…

Continue Reading Personal autonomy

Theory, practice & reflective living

There are broadly three categories of critical reasoning, namely, conceptual theorising, practical deliberation, and introspective reflection.Intuitive thinking, on the other hand, is by its nature uncritical. This is not because it is necessarily irrational or prone to error, though it can be; it is uncritical in the sense that it doesn’t explain itself to itself. It is the possibility of explanation, and explanation of the explanation, that makes reasoning critical.The gap between theory and practice is a stubborn reality. Where conceptual theorising is pulled towards abstraction and detachment, practical deliberation is anchored in the concrete and engaged. However, it is…

Continue Reading Theory, practice & reflective living

Decisions, advocacy & explanation

Deliberation is the reasoning that wraps around a course of action. It is often considered to mean decision making, but I would extend the idea to include advocacy and explanation. Deliberative decisions are made in the knowledge that they will need to be justified and explained.The advantage of this is that it offers a plausible solution to the problem of rational agency. It has always been difficult to conceptualise the rationality of decision making when the paradigm case of rationality is taken to be theoretical, particularly scientific, explanation. However, if rational agency also includes a form of explanation, then the…

Continue Reading Decisions, advocacy & explanation

Jumping to conclusions

Intuitive reasoning is unreflective reasoning, thinking that happens without the intervention of the critical mind. In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman calls this fast thinking, tending to reserve the term intuition for instinctive expertise, the choice of terms reflecting a differing assessment of the rationality of these capabilities. However, without trying to come to a view on this question, it seems to me that we can regard them as modes of the same ability, our capacity to make judgements and decisions without conscious reflection which, for that reason, become judgements and decisions that we may not be…

Continue Reading Jumping to conclusions