Kantian Personal Autonomy

Political Theory 33 (5):602-628 (2005)
Jeremy Waldron has recently raised the question of whether there is anything approximating the creative self-authorship of personal autonomy in the writings of Immanuel Kant. After considering the possibility that Kantian prudential reasoning might serve as a conception of personal autonomy, I argue that the elements of a more suitable conception can be found in Kant’s Tugendlehre or Doctrine of Virtue--specifically, in the imperfect duties of self-perfection and the practical love of others. This discovery is important for at least three reasons: first, it elucidates the relationship among the various conceptions of autonomy employed by personal-autonomy theorists and contemporary Kantians; second, it brings to the surface previously unnoticed or undernoticed features of Kant's moral theory; and third, it provides an essential line of defense against certain critiques of contemporary Kantian theories, especially that of John Rawls.
Keywords personal autonomy  moral autonomy  Immanuel Kant  John Rawls  virtue  prudence
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DOI 10.1177/0090591705278397
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