Agency and Pepperoni Muffins

Posted on April 27, 2009 by

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Pepperoni muffins -- click the picture for the recipe.

Delicious pepperoni muffins! click the picture for the recipe.

I believe that people have free agency. Of course there are limits to that agency. The classic example is pepperoni muffins. Could you have made pepperoni muffins yesterday? Nope. The idea of making them didn’t even enter your mind. It doesn’t matter that you have an oven and know how to cook muffins. Until the idea of pepperoni muffins entered your consciousness (as it has now), you lacked the agency to make them.

We perceive the world as a series of opportunities, to which we can respond “Yes” or “No”. Now that I’m thinking of making some pepperoni muffins, my default reaction says, “No.” It would be a lot of work. But I could exercise my agency and say, “Yes.” We exercise agency by choosing against our default reaction.

In this view, agency is a rarely exercised power. In fact I believe that some people even select a college, find a spouse, and choose a career, all without any exercise of agency. Agency isn’t just making a choice — it’s making a choice other than the default choice.

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Posted in: Musings