Papers

“Respecting the Oppressed in the Personal Autonomy Debate,” Philosophical Studies 178 (8): 2557-2578. 2020.

It is common in the autonomy literature to claim that some more demanding theories of autonomy disrespect certain individuals by giving the result that those individuals lack autonomy. This claim is often made in the context of the debate between substantive and content-neutral theories of autonomy. Proponents of content-neutral theories often argue that, in deeming certain people non-autonomous—especially certain oppressed people who seem to have internalized their oppression in certain ways—the substantive theories disrespect those people. They take this as reason to accept content-neutral views over substantive views. Despite its ubiquity, this concern about disrespect is hard to pin down precisely. In this paper, I articulate two questions that need to be answered before we can understand the disrespect objection. First: Who, exactly, is supposedly being disrespected by substantive views? Second: Why is it that excluding people with these features is disrespectful? I consider a number of possible answers to each of these questions, and I argue that none of them gives us a plausible explanation of why we should think substantive theories of autonomy are disrespectful to anyone. No matter how we fill in the details, I will argue, there is simply no reason to prefer content-neutral theories of autonomy over substantive ones on the grounds of respect.


“Seeing Oneself as a Source of Reasons: Gaslighting, Oppression, and Autonomy,” Southwest Philosophy Review, Forthcoming

In this paper, I provide a novel account of gaslighting according to which gaslighting involves mistakenly failing to see oneself as a source of reasons with respect to some domain. I argue that this account does a nice job of explaining what’s gone wrong in various popular examples of gaslighting, and that it captures what different instances of gaslighting have in common even when they are quite different in other respects. I also show how this account of gaslighting explains a common intuition according to which gaslighting is autonomy-undermining—something other accounts, I argue, have failed to do. And finally, I show that this explanation of why gaslighting is autonomy-undermining also shows that certain forms of oppressive socialization are autonomy-undermining as well, thus providing us with an argument in favor of more substantive theories of autonomy according to which a certain kind of self-respect is necessary for autonomy.


“Self-Respect and Self-Guidance: The Autonomous Person as the Self-Respecting Person” (Under Review)

It is common in feminist literature on both autonomy and self-respect to claim that the two are related. At the same time, though, no one—as far as I am aware—has presented us with a robust, well-motivated account of autonomy that can explain the relevance of self-respect to self-guidance and provide us with plausible assessments of various cases of interest. My goal in this paper is to do just that. I argue that an individual’s choice lacks autonomy to the degree that it is best explained, at least in part, by a lack of respect for oneself as: 1) a person with a certain moral status, 2) a rational agent, or 3) the particular individuals one is. This account of autonomy provides us with valuable insight into cases that feminists often discuss—for example, the Deferential Wife or the victim of gaslighting—and it has various virtues that its rivals lack—for example, it is unified, well-motivated, appreciates the ways in which autonomy is relational, and shows due respect for the self-guiding abilities that oppressed individuals have.


“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.