Reworking Autonomy: Toward a Feminist Perspective

The principled approach to theory building that has been a conspicuous mark of bioethical theory for the past generation has in recent years fallen under considerable critical scrutiny. Although some critics have confined themselves to reordering the dominant principles, others have rejected a principled approach entirely and turned to alternative paradigms. Prominent among critics are antiprin-ciplists, who want to jettison the principle-based approach altogether and adopt a casuistic model, and communitarians, who favor an eclectic model combining features of both the casuistic model and a modified principled approach. Particularly conspicuous in virtually all such critiques is their challenge to the preeminence of the principle of autonomy. Critical barbs have been aimed not only at theories favoring a hierarchical ordering of moral principles that give first place to autonomy, but also at those that include autonomy among a set of ostensibly coequal principles. Though these critics have performed a valued function by displacing bioethical principles from their Olympian perch beyond actual decision-making contexts, some version of the principle of autonomy may, nonetheless, be well worth defending but for very different reasons than those put forward by its supporters
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DOI 10.1017/S0963180100005636
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