A Kantian Defense of Self‐Ownership

Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (1):65-78 (2004)
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Abstract
Many scholars, including G. A. Cohen, Daniel Attas, and George Brenkert, have denied that a Kantian defense of self-ownership is possible. Kant's ostensible hostility to self-ownership can be resolved, however, upon reexamination of the Groundwork and the Metaphysics of Morals. Moreover, two novel Kantian defenses of self-ownership (narrowly construed) can be devised. The first shows that maxims of exploitation and paternalism that violate self-ownership cannot be universalized, as this leads to contradictions in conception. The second shows that physical coercion against rational agents involves a profound status wrong--namely, their treatment as children or animals--and that this system of differential status and treatment (including self-ownership rights for rational agents) can be morally justified by our capacity for autonomy.
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