Autonomy and false beliefs

Philosophical Studies 164 (2):513-531 (2013)
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The majority of current attention on the question of autonomy has focused on the internal reflection of the agent. The quality of an agent’s reflection on her potential action (or motivating desire or value) is taken to determine whether or not that action is autonomous. In this paper, I argue that there is something missing in most of these contemporary accounts of autonomy. By focusing overwhelmingly on the way in which the agent reflects, such accounts overlook the importance of what the agent is reflecting upon. Whichever of these current formulations of autonomy we accept, reflection could be undertaken in full accordance with the conditions set, and yet the action fail to be autonomous. This will occur, I argue, if the agent is mistaken about the object of her reflection. More precisely, if she has a particular kind of false belief about the action she is contemplating undertaking, then no amount of reflection can render that action autonomous. This suggests the need for externalist conditions to be incorporated into an account of autonomy



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Suzy Killmister
Monash University

References found in this work

Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829-839.
Autonomous Agents: From Self Control to Autonomy.Alfred R. Mele - 1995 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.
The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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