Kant's Conception of Personal Autonomy

Journal of Social Philosophy 44 (3):193-212 (2013)
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A strong distinction is often made between personal autonomy and moral autonomy. Personal autonomy involves governing yourself in the pursuit of your own conception of the good. Moral autonomy involves legislating the moral law for yourself. Viewed in this way personal autonomy seems at best marginal and at worst a positive hindrance to moral autonomy, since personal autonomy can conflict with moral autonomy. Given that Kantian approaches to morality are closely aligned with moral autonomy, does that mean that the Kantian must view personal autonomy as a moral hindrance? Can there be a legitimate role for personal autonomy within Kant’s ethical framework? This paper will seek to argue: that personal and moral autonomy need not be seen as in tension or at odds with one another; that Kant defends an attractive weak substantive theory of personal autonomy; that socialisation plays an important role (both positive and negative) in the development of autonomy competences in Kant’s theory; and that personal autonomy (properly understood) has an essential role to play in Kant’s ethical framework.
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