Nudging and Autonomy: Analyzing and Alleviating the Worries

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (1):137-156 (2020)
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Abstract

One of the most pervasive criticisms of nudges has been the claim that they violate, undermine or decrease people’s autonomy. This claim, however, is seldom backed up by an explicit and detailed conception of autonomy. In this paper, we aim to do three things. First, we want to clear up some conceptual confusion by distinguishing the different conceptions used by Cass Sunstein and his critics in order to get clear on how they conceive of autonomy. Second, we want to add to the existing discussion by distinguishing between ‘autonomy’ as the ability to set your own ends and ‘autocracy’ as the ability to actually realize those ends. This will allow for a more careful ethical evaluation of specific nudge interventions. Third, we will introduce the idea of ‘perimeters of autonomy’ in an attempt to provide a realistic account of personal autonomy and we will argue that it can alleviate most of the worries about nudging being autonomy-undermining.

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Author Profiles

Thomas Nys
University of Amsterdam
Bart Engelen
Tilburg University

References found in this work

The Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Free Agency.Gary Watson - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (April):205-20.
The Ethics of Nudge.Luc Bovens - 2008 - In Mats J. Hansson & Till Grüne-Yanoff (eds.), Preference Change: Approaches from Philosophy, Economics and Psychology. Berlin: Springer, Theory and Decision Library A. pp. 207-20.

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