The Autonomous Life: A Pure Social View

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (1):143-158 (2014)
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In this paper I propose and develop a social account of global autonomy. On this view, a person is autonomous simply to the extent to which it is difficult for others to subject her to their wills. I argue that many properties commonly thought necessary for autonomy are in fact properties that tend to increase an agent’s immunity to such interpersonal subjection, and that the proposed account is therefore capable of providing theoretical unity to many of the otherwise heterogeneous requirements of autonomy familiar from recent discussions. Specifically, I discuss three such requirements: (i) possession of legally protected status, (ii) a sense of one’s own self-worth, and (iii) a capacity for critical reflection. I argue that the proposed account is not only theoretically satisfying but also yields a rich and attractive conception of autonomy.
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