“Respecting the Oppressed in the Debate between Substantive and Content-Neutral Theories of Autonomy” (R&R)

One popular objection to substantive theories of autonomy is that, since they are fairly restrictive in who counts as fully autonomous, they are disrespectful to the many people they exclude (especially the oppressed). In this paper, I argue that there is no plausible way of interpreting the claim that more demanding theories of autonomy are disrespectful to those individuals it deems not fully autonomous (including oppressed individuals). I argue that concluding that certain oppressed individuals lack autonomy is consistent with recognizing and respecting the capacities for self-guidance that they do have.

“No Autonomy without Self-Respect” (Under Review)

Here I consider the necessary conditions of autonomy suggested by some of the current leading theories of autonomy and I argue that they face serious difficulties. However, I note that they have in common a concern with certain aspects of self-respect. Give this insight, I consider what a theory of autonomy that appealed directly to self-respect as a necessary condition for autonomy would look like, and I argue that the resulting theory would be intuitively appealing and would not face the same problems its rivals do. On this approach, the autonomous person would, for example, appreciate their equal status with other persons and so would not be subservient to others in most cases. They would also take seriously their values and would therefore act with integrity, and they would appreciate the value of their rational capacities and so would attempt to have good reasons for the things they do. These are some of the ways in which there is an important connection between self-guidance and self-respect, and I claim that we need autonomy to allow us to identify and theorize about that.

“Why Should We Care about Personal Autonomy?” (In Progress)

In this paper I argue that the autonomy debate is currently at an impasse and that one promising way forward is to consider what theoretical value the concept of autonomy might have. I also argue that none of the current suggestions for its theoretical value are plausible and suggest an alternative: that the concept of autonomy allows us to theorize about the kind of self-guidance a self-respecting person would engage in. With this alternative in hand, we can evaluate theories of autonomy in part by considering how well they allow the concept of autonomy to fill this role.