Second-order desire accounts of autonomy

The autonomous person is one who has, in some sense, mastery over their desires. The prevailing way to understand such personal autonomy is in terms of a hierarchy of desires. For Harry Frankfurt, persons not only have first-order desires, but possess the additional capacity to form second-order desires. Second-order desires are formed through reflection on first-order desires and are thus expressive of the rational capacity which is characteristic of persons. Frankfurt's account of freedom of the will is founded on his analysis of persons. It is only because persons possess second-order desires, resulting from their capacity for rational evaluation of first-order desires, that persons (and not those Frankfurt calls 'wantons') are well placed to possess freedom of will. Various objections have been raised in the literature against such second-order desire accounts of freedom of the will or autonomy. In my article, I raise the problem of instrumental second-order desires. I discuss the forms instrumental second-order desires can take and attempt to show that these cannot be the second-order desires that Frankfurt has in mind in his account. I then extend my critique by looking at non-instrumental second-order desires. I consider various forms which non-instrumental second-order desires can take and advance the argument that Frankfurt cannot have second-order desires such as these in mind either. Finally, I note that none of the suggestions considered will deliver a second-order desire account of autonomy, and that it is baffling just what Frankfurt does have in mind.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/096725598342118
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 38,013
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.
Sour Grapes: Studies in the Subversion of Rationality.Jon Elster - 1983 - Editions De La Maison des Sciences De L'Homme.
Preference Among Preferences.Richard C. Jeffrey - 1974 - Journal of Philosophy 71 (13):377-391.

View all 6 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Animal Beliefs and Their Contents.F. Dreckmann - 1999 - Erkenntnis 51 (1):597-615.
A Desire of One's Own.Michael E. Bratman - 2003 - Journal of Philosophy 100 (5):221-42.
Disputing Autonomy: Second-Order Desires and the Dynamics of Ascribing Autonomy.Joel Anderson - 2008 - SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):7-26.
Augustine on Liberty of the Higher-Order Will.John J. Davenport - 2007 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 81:67-89.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.


Added to PP index

Total views
124 ( #52,505 of 2,312,430 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #175,904 of 2,312,430 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature