About this topic
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. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. Nomy Arpaly (2004). Which Autonomy. In M. O.’Rourke J. K. Campbell (ed.), Freedom and Determinism. Mit. 173--188.
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  6. Nomy Arpaly (2004). 8 Which Autonomy? In M. O.’Rourke J. K. Campbell (ed.), Freedom and Determinism. Mit. 173.
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  7. Robert Audi (1991). Autonomy, Reason, and Desire. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 72 (4):247-271.
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  8. Ideal Of Autonomy (2007). Linda Zagzebski. Episteme 7:253.
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  9. 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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  10. Hindess Barry (2005). Book Review: Freedom and its Conditions: Discipline, Autonomy, and Resistance. [REVIEW] Political Theory 33 (5).
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  11. 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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  12. Kenneth Baynes (forthcoming). Autonomy, Reason and Intersubjectivity. Manuscrito.[Links].
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  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. Anna Bendz (2004). I Välfärdsstatens Hägn: Autonomi Inom Arbetslöshetsförsäkringen. Statsvetenskapliga Institutionen, Göteborgs Universitet.
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  16. Seyla Benhabib (1982). Communicative Ethics and Moral Autonomy. Journal of Philosophy 79 (11):715-716.
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  17. Franco Berardi (2009). Reassessing Italian Modernization: Social Autonomy in the Age of Exhaustion. Diacritics 39 (3):29-34.
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  18. Bruno Bettelheim (1968). Alienation and Autonomy. In Ben Rothblatt (ed.), Changing Perspectives on Man. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
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  19. 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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  20. 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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  21. 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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  22. 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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  23. A. Braeckman (1988). Autonomie, Moraliteit En Menselijke Vrijheid -Autonomy, Morality and Human Freedom. Bijdragen 49 (3):277-298.
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  24. 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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  25. 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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  26. 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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  27. 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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  28. C. Castorladis (1992). The Retreat From Autonomy: Post-Modernism as Generalized Conformism. Thesis Eleven 31 (1):14-23.
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  29. Marchionni Caterina (2008). Explanatory Pluralism and Complementarity. From Autonomy to Integration. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 38 (3).
  30. James A. Chamberlain (2014). Bending Over Backwards: Flexibility, Freedom, and Domination in Contemporary Work. Constellations 21 (4).
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  31. 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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  32. 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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  33. 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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  34. 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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  35. 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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  36. 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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  37. 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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  38. S. Crook (1996). Juergen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action; Autonomy and Solidarity: Interviews with JuergenHabermas; Postmetaphysical Thinking: PhilosophicalEssays; Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics. Thesis Eleven 44:126-134.
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  39. S. A. Crook (1996). No Title: Extended Review of Four Books by Jurgen Habermas (Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action; Autonomy and Solidarity; Postmetaphysical Thinking; Justification and Application.). Thesis Eleven 44 (1):126-35.
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  40. J. Cunliffe & A. Reeve (1999). Dialogic Authority. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 19 (3):453-466.
    This paper discusses the compatibility of authority and autonomy. It makes a distinction between 'deference authority', and 'dialogic authority', which is proposed as an understanding of authority with three advantages over undifferentiated accounts. First, 'dialogic authority' is better able to reconcile autonomy with authority. Secondly, it provides conceptual space for accountability, space diminished or excluded by deference authority. Thirdly, it captures the experience of authority-subjects attempting to preserve autonomy.
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  41. S. E. Cuypers (1997). Mele, AR-Autonomous Agents. Philosophical Books 38:205-207.
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  42. Stefaan E. Cuypers (2008). Autonomy Beyond Voluntarism. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 30 (2):225-256.
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  43. Stefaan E. Cuypers (2000). Alfred Mele's Voluntaristic Conception of Autonomy. In A. van den Beld (ed.), Moral Responsibility and Ontology. Kluwer. 259--270.
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  44. Michael J. DeMoor (2007). Rational Autonomy and Autonomous Rationality. Philosophia Reformata 72 (2):105-129.
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  45. N. J. H. Dent (1990). Moral Autonomy In The Republic. Polis 9 (1):52-77.
    Liberal critics of plato's republic criticise him for ignoring the moral autonomy of persons, their right to form and to express their own moral ideas. It is argued that this criticism is superficial. Neither plato, nor his liberal critics, wish all moral views to be held and acted on; they both wish to set limits to what is acceptable. The true source of disagreement is over the scope of reason in human affairs; plato understands that narrowly; his liberal critics in (...)
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  46. Jean-Philippe Deranty (2011). Rationality, Autonomy, and the Social Bond. Philosophy Today 55 (1):3-11.
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  47. Boris DeWiel (2010). Freedom as Creativity: On the Origin of the Positive Concept of Liberty. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 2 (4):42-57.
    The concept of positive liberty includes both the regulative autonomy to do what we will and the constitutive autonomy to become what we will. However, the latter represents the full meaning of the idea. Liberty in this meaning is a creative power: we are most free in the positive sense when we give our defining constitutive rules to ourselves. The original conceptual model for liberty as creativity did not belong to classical Greek tradition but came to us from Judaism. The (...)
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  48. Cecilia Dockendorff (2013). Anti-humanism or autonomy of the individual vis-a-vis social structures: The individual-society relationship in Niklas Luhmann's theory. Cinta de Moebio 48:158-173.
    The individual-society relationship remains a central issue in the social sciences which has not yet reached a consensual explanation. This article presents the way in which Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems deals with the subject. I discuss some of the critical approaches this theory has arises. Then I present social system’s concepts and partial theories that describe the individual-society relationship. I conclude with some reflections about what we consider to be "theoretical advantages" regarding Luhmann’s theory vis-a-vis common explanations in (...)
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  49. Francis Dunlop (1986). The Education of the Emotions and the Promotion of Autonomy: Are They Really Compatible? British Journal of Educational Studies 34 (2):152-160.
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  50. Joachim Duyndam (2012). Humanism, Resilience, and the Hermeneutics of Exemplary Figures. Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 20 (2):3-17.
    Resuming the so-called ‘great campaign’ for resilience of Jaap van Praag, the founding father of contemporary Dutch humanism, this paper proposes a hermeneutical theory that unveils, from a humanistic point of view, the possibility of a relational autonomous ‘will’ in the relationship with exemplary inspirational figures. It will be demonstrated that relational autonomy can be realized from a resilient position toward the heteronomous contagion of our daily life ‘will’ through mimesis, as it is understood in mimetic theory.
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