Autonomy, Property and Distributive Justice

Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2001)
The concept of autonomy is often utilized in order to resolve contentious moral, legal, and political issues. Yet, while a principle of "respect for autonomy" has come to occupy a central place in Western moral and political philosophy, it is not clear what such a principle could mean. In this dissertation, I examine the concept of autonomy and the principle of respect for autonomy as it applies to distributive justice. I take up three interrelated issues: first, which concept of autonomy is appropriate for questions of applied ethics and political philosophy? There are several conceptions of autonomy, not all of which can be used successfully in the debate over distributive justice. Second, given the appropriate conception of autonomy, what is its connection with what is to be distributed, namely goods and property. I argue that there is a vital connection between autonomy and property, such that persons cannot lead autonomous lives without property. Third, the relationship between property and autonomy bear upon the moral and political principles that the state adopts, and I conclude that need-based principles of distribution properly respects autonomy
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