Department of Philosophy



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Nga-Yin (Agnes) Tam

Agnes Tam with friend

My research works at the intersection between political philosophy and social epistemology. It explores how humans collectively achieve moral learning in a non-ideal world where rationality is constrained by cognitive bias and relations of domination. While it applauds democratic reason over hypothetical reason in correcting moral bias arising out of relations of domination, it argues that it is insufficient in correcting social bias arising out of our peer relations governed by social norms. Unlike moral bias, it argues that social bias can be morally benign, socially rational and practically valuable. Hence it ought not be subject to the rigorous standards of deliberation and inclusion imposed by democratic reason. The challenge is to overcome only those problematic social norms embedding moral bias. To that end, Agnes develops a new model of social reason which recognizes and engages our norms of social rationality such as conformity and partiality, and reconciles its tension with norms of moral egalitarianism. The goal of the research is to understand and defend non-deliberative and non-democratic means of progressive social change, e.g. trendsetting, nudging, ingroup deliberation.