Quick Reference

The term may be applied both to the individual person and to a group or an institution. An autonomous person is, fundamentally, one able to act according to his or her own direction. An autonomous institution is one able to regulate its own affairs. The relation between the self‐government of a group and individual autonomy is complicated by the need to distinguish between the collective self‐government of a group and the self‐direction of an individual member of that group. Rousseau's writings illustrate the difficulties involved. Ideas about individual autonomy are closely linked to conceptions of freedom. For example, to act according to my own direction may (on some views of freedom) require access to resources I presently lack, in which case to provide me with them would enhance both my liberty and my autonomy. This problem is, further, connected to notions of the constitution of the self. For example, it may be held that I am not truly ‘self’‐governing if my action is driven by powerful phobias ‘I’ cannot regulate, any more than if my actions are determined by external circumstances beyond my control.

Andrew Reeve


Subjects: Politics — Law.

Reference entries