Autonomy and Its Discontents

Marilyn Friedman

in Autonomy, Gender, Politics

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780195138504
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785902 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

 Autonomy and Its Discontents

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Feminists, communitarians, and other social theorists have raised numerous challenges to the very possibility of the ideal of personal autonomy and its alleged value. This chapter offers a negative defense of autonomy by responding to six critical challenges that have been or may be leveled against it. These are that autonomy-self-determination is impossible because there are no selves; autonomy is impossible because selves cannot “determine” themselves: human actions are merely links in chains of interpersonal interactions; autonomy is impossible because selves cannot determine themselves: they cannot understand themselves accurately; autonomy is possible but not genuinely valuable, and may even be positively harmful, especially to socially subordinated or oppressed groups; autonomy is possible and genuinely valuable, but has been restricted in practice to elite social groups; and that autonomy is possible and genuinely valuable but can be, and has been, distorted in practice into something harmful.

Keywords: autonomy; selves; self-determination; negative defense

Chapter.  12814 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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