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Abe Roth, "The Practical Significance of Group Reasons for Individual Agents"

Abe RothOne reason I had for biking to work today is that I enjoy it.  I also took myself to have another reason – one having to do with the large-scale environmental damage associated with a car commute.  But is this really a reason for me to bike?  Whether I bike or take a car makes no significant difference in averting climate disaster.  We collectively or as a group seem to have reason to ride our bikes; it makes a substantive difference if many or all of us do our parts. But since it makes no significant difference whether I join in, it’s not clear how this fact about the group’s reason for action translates into a reason for me.  How are we to respond to this skeptical “makes-no-difference” argument?  I concede that there is a sense in which the environmental considerations are only a reason for groups that are large enough.  I will argue that an individual can, nevertheless, be entitled to this reason, and this is what enables the individual to act for it.  By invoking a distinctive form of agency exercised when acting with others, I hope to show how it is that group reasons can have a significance for an individual agent they otherwise would not have. 

Each year, the Arts and Humanities celebrate faculty who have recently been promoted to the rank of professor by asking each to present a public lecture on his or her body of research or creative activity and current projects. This lecture features Abe Roth from the Department of Philosophy. All lectures are held at the Faculty Club, ABCD Rooms (2nd floor). Wednesday lectures are from 5-6:30 p.m., and Friday lectures are from 2-3:30 p.m. A reception will accompany each lecture. All are free and open to the public.

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