The Metaphysics of Relational Autonomy

In Charlotte Witt (ed.), Feminist Metaphysics: Explorations in the Ontology of Sex, Gender and the Self. Springer. pp. 99--115 (2011)
Abstract
I here focus on two debates about the conditions for self-governance. In one, the metaphysical debate, theorists are concerned with the potential threat that causal determinism poses to self-governance. In another, the relational debate, theorists are concerned with the potential threat that certain social conditions—especially those that are oppressive to certain social groups—pose to self-governance. MacKenzie and Stoljar have suggested (2000) that the concerns of these two debates do not intersect. In this chapter, I draw out the connections between the two debates, arguing that certain views in the relational debate are in tension with certain commitments in the metaphysical debate. I look at a relational condition for autonomous agency from Paul Benson (1994), extrapolate from the cases discussed by Langton (1993) in the literature on speech acts some relational conditions for autonomous action, and examine the formulation of relational conditions for autonomous choice (Stoljar 2000). I argue that each of these views sits in tension with positions in the metaphysical debate (hard determinism, libertarianism, and (more broadly) incompatibilism, respectively). Thus the concerns of the two debates do intersect. Moreover, if these tensions cannot be resolved, then the relational debate brings to bear important considerations in assessing the plausibility of the views in the metaphysical debate.
Keywords Relational autonomy
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