Autonomy and Orthonomy

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
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  • 1 University of Essex

The ideal of personal autonomy faces a challenge from advocates of orthonomy, who think good government should displace self-government. These critics claim that autonomy is an arbitrary kind of psychological harmony and that we should instead concentrate on ensuring our motivations and deliberations are responsive to reasons. This paper recasts these objections as part of an intramural debate between approaches to autonomy that accept or reject the requirement for robust rational capacities. It argues that autonomy depends upon such responsiveness to reasons, countering objections that ‘externalist’ rationalist criteria strip the self from self-government.

  • 1

    Susan Wolf, Freedom Within Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 140. Cf. Gerald Dworkin’s attempts to dissolve the ‘conflict between self-determination and notions of correctness and objectivity,’ in The Theory and Practice of Autonomy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 12. For a more abstract account of the tensions between self-determination and objective correctness, see John McDowell, ‘Self-Determining Subjectivity and External Constraint,’ International Yearbook of German Idealism 3 (2005), pp. 21–37.

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  • 2

    Phillip Pettit and Michael Smith, ‘Freedom in Belief and Desire,’ The Journal of Philosophy 93:9 (1996), pp. 429–49, here p. 442. See also their ‘Backgrounding Desire,’ The Philosophical Review 99:4 (1990), pp. 565–92; ‘Practical Unreason,’ Mind 102: 407 (1993), pp. 53–79; and to a lesser extent, Michael Smith, ‘Beyond Belief and Desire: or, How to Be Orthonomous,’ in N. Vincent, I. van de Poel and J. van den Hoven (eds.), Moral Responsibility: Beyond Free Will and Determinism (Dordrecht: Springer, 2011), pp. 53–70.

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  • 3

    Steven Lecce, Against Perfectionism: Defending Liberal Neutrality (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), p. 103 (emphasis in original). Cf. Robert Young, Personal Autonomy: Beyond Negative and Positive Liberty (Beckenham: Croom Helm, 1986), ch.2, pp. 7–20.

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  • 6

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Practical Unreason,’ p. 77.

  • 7

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Freedom in Belief and Desire,’ p. 443.

  • 8

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Practical Unreason,’ pp. 76–7.

  • 9

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Backgrounding Desire,’ p. 588.

  • 12

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Freedom in Belief and Desire,’ p. 443.

  • 13

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Freedom in Belief and Desire,’ p. 443.

  • 15

    Harry Frankfurt, ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,’ Journal of Philosophy 68:1 (1971), p. 15. On the evolution of hierarchical approaches, see James Stacey Taylor, ‘Introduction,’ in J. Stacey Taylor (ed.) Personal Autonomy: New Essays on Personal Autonomy and Its Role in Contemporary Moral Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 1–29.

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  • 16

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Freedom in Belief and Desire,’ p. 443.

  • 18

     See Paul Benson, ‘Freedom and Value,’ The Journal of Philosophy 84 (1987), pp. 465–86 and ‘Feminist Intuitions and the Normative Substance of Autonomy,’ in J. Stacey Taylor (ed.) Personal Autonomy: New Essays on Personal Autonomy and Its Role in Contemporary Moral Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 124–42; Bernard Berofsky, Liberation from Self: A Theory of Personal Autonomy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Diana Meyers, Self, Society, and Personal Choice (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989); and, despite terminological differences over the use of ‘autonomy,’ Susan Wolf, Freedom Within Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) and John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza, Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

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  • 26

    Christman, ‘Liberalism and Individual Positive Freedom,’ p. 356.

  • 27

    John Christman, ‘Autonomy and Personal History,’ Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21:1 (1991), p. 14 (emphasis in original).

  • 28

    John Christman, ‘Liberalism, Autonomy and Self-Transformation,’ Social Theory and Practice 27:2 (2001), p. 199. The concern with the nature of the governing self also reappears, such that ‘demanding that the autonomous person respond to objective reasons, in either the actual or a possible world, is too stringent a requirement for autonomy if that is meant to remain tied to self-government.’ (emphasis in original).

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  • 30

    Christman, ‘Liberalism, Autonomy and Self-Transformation,’ p. 203.

  • 33

    Dworkin, The Theory and Practice of Autonomy, p. 161.

  • 37

    Christman, ‘Liberalism, Autonomy and Self-Transformation,’ p. 199.

  • 40

    Pettit and Smith, ‘Freedom in Belief and Desire,’ p. 442.

  • 43

    Friedrich Schiller, ‘Über Amnut und Wurde,’ trans. George Gregory as ‘On Grace and Dignity,’ in Friedrich Schiller: Poet of Freedom vol. 2, The Schiller Institute (ed.) (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976), pp. 337–93. For a discussion of Schiller’s position, see Frederick Beiser, Schiller as Philosopher: A Re-Examination (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 106–10 and Anne Margaret Baxley, Kant’s Theory of Virtue: The Value of Autocracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), ch. 3.

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  • 45

    Schiller, ‘On Grace and Dignity,’ p. 363.

  • 46

    Schiller, ‘On Grace and Dignity,’ p. 373.

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