What kind of person do you aspire to be? How do you know how to become that person? This is the realm of aspiration, as philosopher Agnes Callard describes it. In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes Callard to discuss her book, Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming.


Callard defines aspiration as the rational process of value acquisition. Not the same as having a goal, aspiration is not the satisfaction of a value or desire you already have. Rather, Callard says aspiration explains “how you got from there to here.” How and when did you start to value having children? To embrace a particular political ideology? These are more the realm of aspiration.

Let’s hear your take on aspiration. What kind of person do you aspire to be? Use the prompts below to continue the conversation.



1- What’s the difference between the Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of aspiration, and which one appeals to you more? Why? What is the relationship of college, teachers, and structure to aspiration?


2- What is the role of rationality in aspiration, according to Callard? What does she mean when she says, “I propose that the large transformations in people’s lives are rational though their rationality is not best captured through the framework of decision-making.” What’s the difference between reasoning from value and reasoning toward value?


3- Roberts and Callard spend a good bit of time discussing the process of self-creation. How does the notion of “two selves” apply to aspiration? (Hint- part of the conversation is a reconsideration of this episode with L.A. Paul, who argues that you can never know the person you will be and the preferences you will hold in advance of a transformative life change.)


4- How much of a role does free will or agency have in aspiration? How does aspiration change over an individual’s lifetime, and what does Callard mean when she says, “Aspiration requires help.” Who has been your greatest mentor in the process of aspiration?


5- Are the structures and constraits of tradition now less felt by aspirants today, as Roberts suggests?  If so, what would be the consequence(s)? Can habituation, as discussed by Dan Klein, overcome this challenge? If so, how?