Two Conceptions of Autonomy

Kai Möller

in The Global Model of Constitutional Rights

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199664603
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745751 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Constitutional Theory

Two Conceptions of Autonomy

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This chapter discusses two competing conceptions of personal autonomy: the excluded reasons conception and the protected interests conception. The excluded reasons conception — related to Ronald Dworkin's theory of rights — holds that in order to respect a person's autonomy, the state must not rely on certain (excluded) reasons in its treatment of him, in particular moralistic or paternalistic reasons. The chapter argues that this conception of autonomy, while coherent, cannot explain the broad scope of rights accepted today. The second and preferable conception — the protected interests conception — focuses directly on the actions and personal resources which are important for the purpose of leading an autonomous life. It is then possible to assess the weight of a specific autonomy interest with reference to its importance from the perspective of the self-conception of the agent. This approach is related but preferable to similar concepts used by courts and philosophers, such as the idea of developing one's personality, James Griffin's idea of living one's conception of a worthwhile life, or the idea of self-realisation.

Keywords: Dworkin; Griffin; personal autonomy; excluded reasons; protected interests; moralism; paternalism; self-conception; self-realisation

Chapter.  12815 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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