Elgar original reference
Edited by Victoria Wells and Gordon Foxall
Chapter 10: Addictive, Impulsive and Other Counter-normative Consumption
325 it from physically similar but unchosen blinking behaviour: if someone wanted to change the incidence of blinking they would need to use eyedrops or goggles rather than social sanctions or rewards. Anything that behaviourally responds to incentives is an agent in economic terms. Thus individual people, but also groups of brain cells, non-human organisms, clubs, firms, countries and even, on evolutionary timescales, species can be modeled as agents whenever there is motivation to do so on the part of an analyst. Choice implies that information about changes in costs and benefits must be processed somewhere, but the processing in question need not be ‘internal’ to the agent. For example, a person may choose to consume sweeter bread by moving from Europe to a city in the American South, even if she never entertains thought of the fact that her move shifts the price of unsweetened bread upward—because she would have to travel a long distance to get it—to the point where she will stop consuming it. This disassociation of choice from internal processing is why it is harmless, if we are engaged in economics rather than natural history, to speak of (for example) whales’ ancestors ‘choosing’ to live in the sea (Dennett 1987). On the other hand, rocks do not consume, in the economic sense, chemical elements when they undergo transformative reactions, because no part of the process is a response to incentives. I have been explicit about the ontology that underlies standard economic consumer theory in...
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