our framework which attaches importance both to well-being and agency

NewAmerica

Senior Member
Mandarin
Does agency here refer to moral agency (Moral agency is an individual's ability to make moral judgments based on some notion of right and wrong and to be held accountable for these actions -Wiki)

Thanks in advance
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The multiplicity of ethically valuable considerations involved in our framework which attaches importance both to well-being and agency, and sees each in terms of achievement and freedom, would of course be embarrassing for a 'monist' methodology which insists on descriptive homogeneity of what is to be valued.

-Amartya Sen
On Ethics & Economics
 
  • Juhasz

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    It's similar, but less specific. Moral agency is an individual's ability to make moral judgements. Agency (plain ol' agency) is an individual's ability to make decisions and take action - whether that action has moral significance or not.

    For example, in a political context, an individual would lack agency if she lived in a totalitarian country, where she was unable to act based on her own interests.

    Agency
    has a somewhat special meaning in social science. Social scientists (like Sen) often write about how scholars (especially Western scholars) act as if the people they study (especially if they study non-Western people, e.g. Indians) have no agency. In classical anthropology (let's say, anthropology before the 1960s), there was a tendency to write about non-Western people as if they did not make considered judgements and take action based on their personal interests, instead suggesting that their actions were more like reactions. Nature (again, in the classical conception) does not have agency. If a forest grows, it is not because the forest decided to grow; it is a reaction to various external influences (climate, soil conditions, lack of human logging, etc.). Likewise, when Orientalists (scholars - typically Western - who studied "the East," meaning anything from Turkey to Kamchatka and everything between) wrote about, say, a small uprising of Indian villagers against a British colonial government, this uprising might be described only as a reaction to conditions created by the colonial government, rather than as an expression of individual Indian people's well-considered self-interest.

    This is a long discussion, not fit for the forum, but I wanted to give some more context to Sen's use of "agency."
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Not quite. It just means more generally the ability to take action. We have the ability to act. It could include moral agency in the sense that the start of the sentence is about ethics, but it does not mean that alone.

    edit to add, cross-posted, so now you have the short answer too! ;)
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    It's similar, but less specific. Moral agency is an individual's ability to make moral judgements. Agency (plain ol' agency) is an individual's ability to make decisions and take action - whether that action has moral significance or not.

    For example, in a political context, an individual would lack agency if she lived in a totalitarian country, where she was unable to act based on her own interests.

    Agency
    has a somewhat special meaning in social science. Social scientists (like Sen) often write about how scholars (especially Western scholars) act as if the people they study (especially if they study non-Western people, e.g. Indians) have no agency. In classical anthropology (let's say, anthropology before the 1960s), there was a tendency to write about non-Western people as if they did not make considered judgements and take action based on their personal interests, instead suggesting that their actions were more like reactions. Nature (again, in the classical conception) does not have agency. If a forest grows, it is not because the forest decided to grow; it is a reaction to various external influences (climate, soil conditions, lack of human logging, etc.). Likewise, when Orientalists (scholars - typically Western - who studied "the East," meaning anything from Turkey to Kamchatka and everything between) wrote about, say, a small uprising of Indian villagers against a British colonial government, this uprising might be described only as a reaction to conditions created by the colonial government, rather than as an expression of individual Indian people's well-considered self-interest.

    This is a long discussion, not fit for the forum, but I wanted to give some more context to Sen's use of "agency."
    Excellent!
     
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