Freedom, preference and autonomy

The Journal of Ethics 1 (1):3-25 (1997)
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Abstract

Philosophers have advocated different kinds of freedom, but each has value and none should be neglected in a complete theory of freedom and responsibility. There are three kinds of freedom of preference and action that should be distinguished. A person S may fully prefer to do A at every level, and that is one kind of freedom. A person S may autonomously prefer to do A when S has the preference structure concerning doing A because S prefers to have that very preference structure, and that is a second kind of freedom. A person S may prefer to do A when S could have preferred otherwise, and that is a third kind of freedom. These forms of freedom may be combined, but they are valuable and essentially independent. They all involve the metamental ascendence of preference over desire, but it is autonomous preference that makes a person the author of his or her preference. The responsibility a person has for what he or she does out of a preference for doing it depends on the kinds of freedom of preference the person has and must be ranked in terms of them.

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Keith Lehrer
University of Arizona

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