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Summary Autonomy is one of the most often discussed topics in modern and contemporary philosophy.  It is key to some moral theories, some political philosophies, and, of course, central to understanding the nature of personhood.  Unsurprisingly, then, there are significant disagreements about the nature of autonomy.  There are thinner and thicker understandings of autonomy throughout the literature.  There are moral and political demands that autonomy be protected or promoted.  Its use as a central value in applied ethics is standard.  Generally speaking, then, there are disagreements about what autonomy is and how and why it matters in moral theory and political philosophy.
Key works It is difficult to say what would count as a "key work" here.  Historically, Kant is likely the most important author to consider.  His deontological moral theory rests on a particularly thick conception of autonomy. For a detailed historical overview of autonomy in modern philosophy, it may be best to start with J.B. Schneewind's 1998 The Invention of Autonomy.
Introductions Perhaps the best place to start considering the nature of autonomy is Stephen Darwall's 2006. See also John Christman's SEP entry.
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Subcategories:History/traditions: Autonomy
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  1. Sandra Abdo (2005). Sobre o problema da autonomia da arte e suas implicações hermenêuticas e ontológicas. Kriterion 46 (112):357-366.
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  2. Wolfgang Achtner (2011). Willensfreiheit und Person in neurowissenschaftlicher und theologischer Perspektive. Neue Zeitschrift Für Systematische Theologie Und Religionsphilosophie 53 (2):137-154.
    ZUSAMMENFASSUNGEs werden aus der Theologiegeschichte vier Typen von Willensfreiheit erhoben: der Typus liberum arbitrium , der Typus des nominalistischen Willensbegriffs , der Typus des mystischen Willensbegriffs und der Typus der Rechtfertigungslehre. Die ersten drei Typen werden psychologisch interpretiert im Sinne der Ichentwicklung als präautonom, autonom und transautonom. Nach der Darstellung und Diskussion der gegenwärtigen neurowissenschaftlichen Debatte um die Willensfreiheit wird ein systemisch verstandener Personbegriff als Brückenkonzept vorgeschlagen.SUMMARYFour types of free will are identified from the history of theology: The type of (...)
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  3. Larry Alexander (1996). The Moral Magic of Consent (II). Legal Theory 2 (3):165-174.
    I begin my analysis of consent by agreeing with Professor Hurd that consent functions as a “moral transformative” by altering the obligations and permissions that determine the Tightness of others' actions. I further agree with her that consent is intimately related to the capacity for autonomous action; one who cannot alter others' obligations through consent is not fully autonomous. I cannot improve on her elaboration of these points.
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  4. R. T. Allen (1992). The Education of Autonomous Man.
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  5. Matthew C. Altman & Cynthia D. Coe (2008). The Self as Creature and Creator. Idealistic Studies 37 (3):179-202.
    The conception of subjectivity that dominates the Western philosophical tradition, particularly during the Enlightenment, sets up a simple dichotomy: either the subject is ultimately autonomous or it is merely a causally determined thing. Fichte and Freud challenge this model by formulating theories of subjectivity that transcend this opposition. Fichte conceives of the subject as based in absolute activity, but that activity is qualified by a check for which it is not ultimately responsible. Freud explains the behavior of the self in (...)
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  6. Tjeerd C. Andringa, Kirsten A. van den Bosch & Carla Vlaskamp (2013). Learning Autonomy in Two or Three Steps: Linking Open-Ended Development, Authority, and Agency to Motivation. Frontiers in Psychology 4.
    In this paper we connect open-ended development, authority, agency, and motivation through 1) an analysis of the demands of existing in a complex world and 2) environmental appraisal in terms of affordance content and the complexity to select appropriate behavior. We do this by identifying a coherent core from a wide range of contributing fields. Open-ended development is a structured three-step process in which the agent first learns to master the body and then aims to make the mind into a (...)
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  7. Argyris Arnellos, Thomas Spyrou & Ioannis Darzentas (2010). Naturalising the Design Process: Autonomy and Interaction as Core Features. In Marcin Miłkowski Konrad Talmont-Kaminski (ed.), Beyond Description: Naturalism and Normativity. College Publications.
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  8. Argyris Arnellos, Thomas Spyrtou & Ioannis Darzentas (2010). Towards the Naturalization of Agency Based on an Interactivist Account of Autonomy. New Ideas in Psychology 28 (3):296-311.
    This paper attempts to provide the basis for a broader naturalized account of agency. Naturalization is considered as the need for an ongoing and open-ended process of scientific inquiry driven by the continuous formulation of questions regarding a phenomenon. The naturalization of agency is focused around the interrelation of the fundamental notions of autonomy, functionality, intentionality and meaning. Certain naturalized frameworks of agency are critically considered in an attempt to bring together all the characteristic properties that constitute an autonomous agent, (...)
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  9. Richard Arneson (1994). Autonomy and Preference Formation. In Joel Feinberg, Jules L. Coleman & Allen E. Buchanan (eds.), In Harm's Way: Essays in Honor of Joel Feinberg. Cambridge University Press. 42--75.
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  10. Nomy Arpaly (2004). Which Autonomy. In M. O.’Rourke J. K. Campbell (ed.), Freedom and Determinism. Mit. 173--188.
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  11. Nomy Arpaly (2004). 8 Which Autonomy? In M. O.’Rourke J. K. Campbell (ed.), Freedom and Determinism. Mit. 173.
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  12. Robert Audi (1991). Autonomy, Reason, and Desire. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 72 (4):247-271.
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  13. Ideal Of Autonomy (2007). Linda Zagzebski. Episteme 7:253.
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  14. Guy Axtell (forthcoming). Thinking Twice About Virtue and Vice. In Mark Alfano & Abrol Fairweather (eds.), Epistemic Situationism. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter provides an empirical defense of credit theories of knowing against Alfano’s the-ses of inferential cognitive situationism and of epistemic situationism. It also develops a Nar-row-Broad Spectrum of agency-ascriptions in reply to Olin and Doris’ ‘trade-off problem.’ In order to support the claim that credit theories can treat many cases of success through heuristic cognitive strategies as credit-conferring, the paper develops the compatibility between VE and dual-process theories (DPT) in cognitive psychology. A genuine convergence between VE and DPT is (...)
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  15. Murat Baç (2007). Causal Determinants, Reasons, and Substantive Autonomy: A Critical Approach to Agency. Problemos 72:135-144.
    Although the notion of agency presents itself as an attractive solution to the puzzle of free will, itfaces a problem vis-à-vis the nature of reasons that are purported to lie behind actions. In this paper,I first point out the significance of a paradigm shift that emerges with the agency view. Then I arguethat the agency theories nonetheless fail in general to give a satisfactory account of various sorts ofreasons underlying our actions and choices. In trying to enlighten the multi-faceted nature (...)
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  16. Anne Baril (2013). Review of Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief, by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
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  17. Hindess Barry (2005). Book Review: Freedom and its Conditions: Discipline, Autonomy, and Resistance. [REVIEW] Political Theory 33 (5).
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  18. N. Basch, H. Charlesworth, C. Chinkin, A. Diduck, F. Kaganas, B. Fawcett, S. Lamb, A. McColgan & S. Rahman-Khan (2001). Alldridge, P. And Brants, C.(Eds), Personal Autonomy, The Private Sphere and Criminal Law: A Comparative Study (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2001). Andrews, LB, Future Perfect (New York Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2000). [REVIEW] Feminist Legal Studies 9:273-274.
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  19. Kenneth Baynes (forthcoming). Autonomy, Reason and Intersubjectivity. Manuscrito.[Links].
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  20. A. Beckermann, H. Flohr, J. Kim & S. Benhabib (1993). Allen, RT, The Education of Autonomous Man, Aldershot, Avebury, 1992, Vi, 82,£ 22.50 (Cloth). Anderson, AR Belnap, ND and Dunn, JM, Entailment: The Logic of Relevance and Necessity Vol II, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1992, Xxvii, 749, US $75.00 (Cloth). [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (2).
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  21. M. Bednarikova (2003). Is Subjective Experience Reducible? Filozofia 58 (7):494-503.
    The problem of the relationship between the subjective and the objective appears in its most distinctive form in the explanation of the phenomenon of consciousness. Is consciousness explicable in the frame of physicalist picture of the world? Does the existence of a subjective phenomenal experience imply a non-material aspect of consciousness? These are the fundamental questions of the presented paper. Its main aim is to answer the question, whether the subjective experience can be explained in reductive manner. In conclusion it (...)
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  22. J. S. Bedwell, S. Gallagher, S. N. Whitten & S. M. Fiore (2011). Linguistic Correlates of Self in Deceptive Oral Autobiographical Narratives. Consciousness and Cognition 20 (3):547-555.
    The current study collected orally-delivered autobiographical narratives from a sample of 44 undergraduate students. Participants were asked to produce both deceptive and non-deceptive versions of their narrative to two specific autobiographical question prompts while standing in front of a video camera. Narratives were then analyzed with Coh-Metrix software on 33 indices of linguistic cohesion. Following a Bonferroni correction for the large number of linguistic variables , results indicated that the deceptive narratives contained more explicit action verbs, less linguistic complexity, and (...)
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  23. Anna Bendz (2004). I Välfärdsstatens Hägn: Autonomi Inom Arbetslöshetsförsäkringen. Statsvetenskapliga Institutionen, Göteborgs Universitet.
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  24. Seyla Benhabib (1982). Communicative Ethics and Moral Autonomy. Journal of Philosophy 79 (11):715-716.
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  25. Harry Beran (1979). LEVIN, A., "The Politics of Autonomy". [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 57:285.
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  26. Franco Berardi (2009). Reassessing Italian Modernization: Social Autonomy in the Age of Exhaustion. Diacritics 39 (3):29-34.
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  27. Bruno Bettelheim (1968). Alienation and Autonomy. In Ben Rothblatt (ed.), Changing Perspectives on Man. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
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  28. Monika Betzler (2012). The Normative Significance of Personal Projects. In Michael Kuhler & Najda Jelinek (eds.), Autonomy and the Self. Springer. 118--101.
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  29. Julie E. Boland & Anne Cutler (1996). Interaction with Autonomy: Multiple Output Models and the Inadequacy of the Great Divide. Cognition 58 (3):309-320.
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  30. Sofia Bonicalzi (2013). Moral Responsibility Beyond Classical Compatibilist and Incompatibilist Accounts. Prolegomena 12 (1):21-41.
    The concept of “moral responsibility” has almost always been defined in relation to a certain idea of metaphysical freedom and to a conception of the physical world. So, classically, for indeterminist thinkers, human beings are free and therefore responsible, if their choices are not defined by a previous state of the world but derive from an autonomous selection among a set of alternatives. Differently, for the majority of determinist philosophers , the only form of freedom we need has to be (...)
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  31. Dominique Bouchet (2007). The Ambiguity of the Modern Conception of Autonomy and the Paradox of Culture. Thesis Eleven 88 (1):31-54.
    Grounded in newer French socio-political philosophy, this text deals with the paradoxical situation in which the interpretation of society as well as the relation between the individual and the social remains ambiguous even though autonomy and interrogation of the social emerges: Autonomy remains trapped between transcendence and immanence. Modernity is when society claims to know that it has to produce its own myths. Traditional societies did not relate to their myths as if they were their own products. Nevertheless, as soon (...)
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  32. Michael Boylan (2001). Justice, Community, and the Limits to Autonomy. In James P. Sterba (ed.), Social and Political Philosophy: Contemporary Perspectives. Routledge. 187--201.
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  33. A. Braeckman (1988). Autonomie, Moraliteit En Menselijke Vrijheid -Autonomy, Morality and Human Freedom. Bijdragen 49 (3):277-298.
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  34. J. Bransen (1998). Actorschap en zelfstandigheid. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 60 (4):723 - 739.
    This is a review article of the debate about the role of the hierarchical conceptionof personal autonomy in an analysis of agency. Three well-known problems are described:the infinite regress, the 'ab initio' problem, and the 'incompleteness' problem. It is suggested that solving the last problem would resolve the former two. Three strategies to solve the last problem are discussed and found unsatisfactory: (1) stressing the independent role of value judgements; (2) stressing the supreme value of coherence; (3) stressing the role (...)
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  35. A. Burms (1973). „(Niet) Anders kunnen handelen”. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 35 (1):3 - 26.
    The classical formulations given to the problem of free will and determinism in analytical philosophy can be split into two groups according to a double function of the element : „to be able to act otherwise”. In the first case we speak of „the problem of autonomy” and in the second of „the problem of justifying punishment”. Both formulations are inadequate. „The problem of autonomy” is wrongly formulated, since determinism does not threaten our possibilities. „The problem of justifying punishment” is (...)
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  36. Arnold Burms (1995). Introduction. Ethical Perspectives 2 (4):163-164.
    Influential contemporary thinkers have declared that the belief in individual autonomy rests on an illusion. They have argued that our subjectivity is shaped by the language we speak and the traditions to which we belong. One should not, however, overestimate the impact of these theoretical criticisms. The idea of individual autonomy is part of a larger pattern of belief which has not ceased to exert its influence on our habits of thinking and behaving.The belief that we are fully autonomous subjects (...)
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  37. Sarah Buss (2013). Accountability, Integrity, Authenticity, and Self-Legislation: Reflections on Ruediger Bittner's Reflections on Autonomy. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis:1-14.
    In this paper I consider three widespread assumptions: (1) the assumption that we are accountable for our intentional actions only if they are in some special sense ours; (2) the assumption that it is possible for us to be more or less “true to” ourselves, and that we are flawed human beings to the extent that we lack “integrity”; and (3) the assumption that we can sometimes give ourselves reasons by giving ourselves commands. I acknowledge that, as Ruediger Bittner has (...)
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  38. John Carriero (1990). Descartes & the Autonomy of the Human Understanding. Routledge.
    First Published in 1990. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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  39. C. Castorladis (1992). The Retreat From Autonomy: Post-Modernism as Generalized Conformism. Thesis Eleven 31 (1):14-23.
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  40. Marchionni Caterina (2008). Explanatory Pluralism and Complementarity. From Autonomy to Integration. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (3).
  41. James A. Chamberlain (2014). Bending Over Backwards: Flexibility, Freedom, and Domination in Contemporary Work. Constellations 21 (4):n/a-n/a.
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  42. D. Charles (1986). Robins, M. H., "Promising, Intending and Moral Autonomy". [REVIEW] Mind 95:268.
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  43. Christopher Cherry (1984). Can My Survival Be Subrogated? Philosophy 59 (230):443 - 456.
    John S. Dunne says that in its most general form the ‘problem of death’ is this: ‘If I must some day die, what can I do to satisfy my desire to live?’ His aim is to ‘discover what[men] have done or tried to do to make themselves immortal’ —or at any rate to prolong their lives indefinitely, a rather different matter. His book charts the adoption and subsequent rejection of a succession of historical ‘solutions’ to this problem: ‘surrogates’of one or (...)
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  44. W. D. Christensen & C. A. Hooker (2000). Autonomy and the Emergence of Intelligence: Organised Interactive Construction. Communication and Cognition-Artificial Intelligence 17 (3-4):133-157.
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  45. John Christman (2013). Autonomy. In Roger Crisp (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics. Oxford University Press. 281-293.
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  46. Michelle Ciurria (2011). Tolerance, Acceptance and the Virtue of Orthonomy: A Reply to Lawrence Blum and Brenda Almond. Journal of Moral Education 40 (2):255-264.
    In the Journal of Moral Education, 39(2), Brenda Almond and Lawrence Blum debate the importance of tolerance versus acceptance in sex education. Blum defines acceptance as ?positive regard?, in contradistinction to mere tolerance, ?a live and let live attitude toward others, an acceptance of coexistence, but with a disapproval of that ?other??. Employing consequentialist and definitional arguments, he defends an acceptant educational policy. I shore up this defence by addressing the issue of autonomy: specifically, I refute the claim that acceptance (...)
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  47. Thomas W. Clark (2013). Experience and Autonomy. In Gregg Caruso (ed.), Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lexington Books. 239.
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  48. P. Cobben (1997). Autonomy and the Nature of Moral Norms. In Paul Cobben & Ludwig Heyde (eds.), How Natural is the Ethical Law? Tilburg University Press. 53--66.
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  49. John Coggon (2007). Varied and Principled Understandings of Autonomy in English Law: Justifiable Inconsistency or Blinkered Moralism? [REVIEW] Health Care Analysis 15 (3):235-255.
    Autonomy is a concept that holds much appeal to social and legal philosophers. Within a medical context, it is often argued that it should be afforded supremacy over other concepts and interests. When respect for autonomy merely requires non-intervention, an adult’s right to refuse treatment is held at law to be absolute. This apparently simple statement of principle does not hold true in practice. This is in part because an individual must be found to be competent to make a valid (...)
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  50. Ben Colburn (2012). Autonomy-Minded Anti-Perfectionism. Journal of Philosophical Research 37:233-241.
    John Patrick Rudisill purports to identify various problems with my argument that the state promotion of autonomy is consistent with anti-perfectionism, viz., that it falsely pretends to be novel, is unacceptably counterintuitive because too restrictive and too permissive, and that it deploys a self-defeating formal apparatus. I argue, in reply, that my argument is more novel than Rudisill gives me credit for; that properly understood my anti-perfectionism implies neither the implausible restrictions nor the unpalatable permissions that Rudisill claims; and that (...)
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