XAT 2012 Question 10

Instructions

Read the following passage and provide appropriate answers for the questions

There is an essential and irreducible ‘duality’ in the normative conceptualization of an individual person. We can see the person in terms of his or her ‘agency’, recognizing and respecting his or her ability to form goals, commitments, values, etc., and we can also see the person in terms of his or her ‘well-being’. This dichotomy is lost in a model of exclusively self- interested motivation, in which a person’s agency must be entirely geared to his or her own well-being. But once that straitjacket of self-interested motivation is removed, it becomes possible to recognize the indisputable fact that the person’s agency can well be geared to considerations not covered - or at least not fully covered - by his or her own well-being. Agency may be seen as important (not just instrumentally for the pursuit of well-being, but also intrinsically), but that still leaves open the question as to how that agency is to be evaluated and appraised. Even though the use of one’s agency is a matter for oneself to judge, the need for careful assessment of aims, objective, allegiances, etc., and the conception of the good, may be important and exacting. To recognize the distinction between the ‘agency aspect’ and the ‘well-being aspect’ of a person does not require us to take the view that the person’s success as an agent must be independent, or completely separable from, his or her success in terms of well-being. A person may well feel happier and better off as a result of achieving what he or she wanted to achieve - perhaps for his or her family, or community, or class, or party, or some other cause. Also it is quite possible that a person’s well-being will go down as a result of frustration if there is some failure to achieve what he or she wanted to achieve as an agent, even though those achievements are not directly concerned with his or her well-being. There is really no sound basis for demanding that the agency aspect and the well-being aspect of a person should be independent of each other, and it is, I suppose, even possible that every change in one will affect the other as well. However, the point at issue is not the plausibility of their independence, but the sustainability and relevance of the distinction. The fact that two variables may be so related that one cannot change without the other, does not imply that they are the same variable, or that they will have the same values, or that the value of one can be obtained from the other on basis of some simple transformation. The importance of an agency achievement does not rest entirely on the enhancement of well-being that it may indirectly cause. The agency achievement and well-being achievement, both of which have some distinct importance, may be casually linked with each other, but this fact does not compromise the specific importance of either. In so far as utility - based welfare calculations concentrate only on the well- being of the person, ignoring the agency aspect, or actually fails to distinguish between the agency aspect and well-being aspect altogether, something of real importance is lost.

Question 10

Of the options presented below, which one is the best example for the ideas propounded in the passage?

Solution

The closing lines of the passage act as a good guide here. It says that if we forget the individuality of the sense of agency and sense of well being and end up correlating them all the time, then we might end up drawing incorrect inferences. 

In the last option given to us, we can see that a politician is going on a hunger strike which means he is putting his sense of well being (by depriving his body of necessity of food) on the backburner but ends up fulfilling his sense of agency by achieving a good image in the minds of his voters. If we would have thought that sense of well being and sense of agency are correlated all the time, then we might never have understood the rationale behind the politician's hunger strike (and some might even have deemed such an event as an impossibility). The incident of hunger strike is a proof that sense of agency might well be driven NOT by sense of well being all the time. And this is the point of the entire passage. Hence, it is an apt answer. 



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