Autonomy and History: How a Desire Becomes One's Own

Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (3):265-293 (2014)
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A common view among autonomy theorists is that a desire is autonomous only if it has the right sort of history. Usually, an autonomy-compatible history is taken to consist in the desire’s having had proper origins. In a recent article in this journal, Mikhail Valdman has proposed an alternative historical theory on which a desire’s origins are irrelevant. On Valdman’s “agent-engagement” theory, a desire is autonomous if and only if the agent has made it her own by deliberatively deciding it is worth maintaining and acting on. I argue that both of these approaches are overly demanding: the history of many autonomous desires lack proper origins, agent-engagement, or both. Taking as my starting point Alfred Mele’s account, which I go on to revise and supplement in several important ways, I outline a more flexible historical theory of autonomy which recognizes multiple ways in which a desire can become one’s own.



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Steven Weimer
Arkansas State University

Citations of this work

Autonomy, Regress, and Manipulation.Steven Weimer - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (4):1141-1168.

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References found in this work

Practical competence and fluent agency.Peter Railton - 2009 - In David Sobel & Steven Wall (eds.), Reasons for Action. Cambridge University Press. pp. 81--115.
Autonomy, History, and the Origins of Our Desires.Mikhail Valdman - 2011 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 8 (3):415-434.

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