Autonomy, Self-appraisal, and the Motive of Care

Despite receiving considerable philosophical attention, the concept of autonomy remains contested. In this paper, we diagnose one source of the continuing problem—an excessive emphasis on reflective self-appraisal in the dominant procedural models of autonomy—and suggest a solution. We argue that minimalist conceptions of rational self-appraisal are subject to fatal counterexamples. Yet, attempts to provide a more robust account of rational self-appraisal are too demanding to capture our intuitions about who counts as an autonomous agent. We argue that no procedure of rational reflection will confer autonomy; rather autonomy is a matter of an agent’s actions flowing from her substantive commitments. Instead of rational self-reflection, autonomous actions are the product of the motive of care, which anchors an agent’s occurent desires to her system of value.
Keywords Agency  Autonomy  Ethics of Care
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