Autonomy is the capacity for self-government. Agents are autonomous if their actions are truly their own. The necessity of this moral liberty appears in Rousseau, and is a cornerstone of Kant's ethical theory, in which possessing autonomy of the will is a necessary condition of moral agency. The difficulty in the concept is that our desires, choices, and actions are all partly caused by factors outside our control, including those factors originally responsible for our characters. So true autonomy can easily seem to be a myth. Yet the concept is important, since it is plausible to hold that only agents acting autonomously are responsible for their actions. But this idea also leads to quicksands: autonomy is often contrasted with the state of being ‘enslaved’ by bad desires. But if only the autonomous can be held responsible it will quickly follow that nobody is responsible for bad actions. Proposals for defending the concept include describing agents as autonomous when they are under the influence only of reason, when they can identify with the motivations prompting their action, or when they are capable of acting so as to change their motivations if they cannot identify with them. Agents are heteronomous if their will is under the control of another. It should be noted that the pair is not exhaustive: an agent may fail to be autonomous because of external factors that do not include control by another, but only other kinds of constraint and compulsion. In the ethics of Kant the terms are more specific. Autonomy is the ability to know what morality requires of us, and functions not as freedom to pursue our ends, but as the power of an agent to act on objective and universally valid rules of conduct, certified by reason alone. Heteronomy is the condition of acting on desires, which are not legislated by reason. The centrality of autonomy is challenged by ethical theorists, including many feminists, who see it as a fantasy that masks the social and personal springs of all thought and action. See also authenticity, determinism, free will, libertarianism (<

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • autonomy — autonomy/heteronomy …   Philosophy dictionary

  • heteronomy — See autonomy/heteronomy …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Heteronomy — Het er*on o*my, n. 1. Subordination or subjection to the law of another; political subjection of a community or state; opposed to autonomy. [1913 Webster] 2. (Metaph.) A term applied by Kant to those laws which are imposed on us from without, or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • heteronomy — noun Etymology: heter + nomy (as in autonomy) Date: 1798 subjection to something else; especially a lack of moral freedom or self determination …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • heteronomy — noun a) The political subjection of a community to the rule of another power or to an external law. b) The state of being beholden to external influences. Ant: autonomy …   Wiktionary

  • autonomy — noun a) Self government b) The capacity to make an informed, uncoerced decision. Syn: nationhood, nationality, sovereignty …   Wiktionary

  • autonomy — Synonyms and related words: Declaration of Independence, absolute monarchy, aristocracy, autarchy, autarky, autocracy, autonomousness, coalition government, colonialism, commonwealth, constitutional government, constitutional monarchy, democracy …   Moby Thesaurus

  • heteronomy — /hɛtəˈrɒnəmi/ (say hetuh ronuhmee) noun condition of being under the rule of another (opposed to autonomy) …   Australian English dictionary

  • Cornelius Castoriadis — Full name Cornelius Castoriadis Born March 11, 1922 Constantinople, Ottoman Empire Died December 26, 1997 Paris, France …   Wikipedia

  • apathy — Although it is the particular enemy of teachers and sports coaches, apathy often gets a good philosophical press, especially in ethical systems that regard desire and worldly interest as low and unworthy. Plato recognizes the need for passion or… …   Philosophy dictionary

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