Autonomy and Responsibility

In Ben Colburn (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Autonomy (forthcoming)
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This chapter offers a fine-grained analysis of the relationship between autonomy and responsibility in order to address a challenge according to which considering autonomy and responsibility as closely related is misleading since these concepts serve different normative objectives. In response to this challenge, I first explore two criteria of ascription – rationality and control – that autonomy and responsibility seem to share. I then contrast and compare three pairs of autonomy and responsibility conceptions. Examining these pairs rescues the idea that there are normatively significant connections between autonomy and responsibility, albeit that what that connection is and why it matters is highly sensitive to the different understandings of autonomy and responsibility one might adopt. The first pair, self-governance and accountability, posits a notion of core agency as irreducibly valuable. The second, authenticity and attributability, rests on a shared ideal of actively becoming a distinctive self. The third and final, relational autonomy and answerability, derives from the thought that unequal standing impacts heavily on whether and how the criteria of rationality and control are applied in specific cases. This analysis demonstrates that rationality and control are not independent criteria but always work in tandem. Failing to appreciate these conceptual interactions could obfuscate promising pathways for both supporting personal autonomy and challenging unwarranted responsibility ascriptions.



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Lubomira Radoilska
University of Kent

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