Philosophia 42 (4):1141-1168 (2014)

Steven Weimer
Arkansas State University
In this paper, I propose a novel deliberation-based theory of autonomy which grounds an agent’s autonomy in her nature as a rationally-reflective being. I defend that theory against competing approaches to autonomous agency by arguing that the theory I propose is best equipped to handle two of the more troublesome problems that theories of autonomy face: the regress problem and the problem of manipulation. Sarah Buss and Peter Railton have each recently claimed that the regress problem which plagues many prominent accounts of autonomy indicates the need to abandon the notion that autonomous agency is to be understood in terms of deliberation, endorsement, or any other activity on the part of the agent, and adopt instead a “passive” approach to autonomous agency. Against this claim, I argue that despite their shift to the passive mode, the theories offered by Buss and Railton also face a version of the regress problem, and that the general solution to that problem implicit in their passive theories is available also to “active” theories of autonomy, such as the deliberation-based theory I propose. I go on to explain that because the solution to the regress problem I extract from the theories of Buss and Railton requires an “unmoved mover” of autonomy, the history of which is necessarily irrelevant, it invites manipulation objections. I argue that the theory I propose offers the most promising response to such objections, and thus escapes these two prominent problems in better stead than do the competing approaches to autonomous agency
Keywords Autonomy  Accountability  Agency  Buss  Railton
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-014-9552-8
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References found in this work BETA

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