Autonomy, Moral Behavior & the Self

UTONOMY IS VERY HIGHLY PRAISED as something that it is always good to have, and always good to have more of rather than less of.1 The idea seems to be that persons should be autonomous whatever else they might be, and that should act autonomously whatever else it is that they might do. Kantians are fond of saying that a person is autonomous if she or he chooses to live in accordance with the dictates of reason. This, in turn, directly links autonomy to morality, which for Kantians is an ineliminable aspect of reason. I shall discuss this view in Section II. Of course, it is also the case that autonomy is widely heralded as a good by those who do not accept Kant’s philosophical moorings. For instance, to say that women should be more autonomous is not thereby to say that they should be more embracing of this or that moral set of principles. In fact, it is not clear that this assertion pertains to acting morally at all. Autonomy, like liberty, seems to be regarded as a good whatever the philosophical leanings of people might be. In either case, the more the better
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