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Robert Young on Autonomy - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 103
Autonomy/Young, Robert/Gaus: The notion of a coherent plan of life was central to nineteenth-century self-realization theory (Gaus, 1983a(1): 34–44); the idea of a project or a plan points to a coherent and integrated set of ends. To the extent that a conception of personal autonomy presupposes a certain rational structure of ends, or a
Gaus I 104
rationally constructed plan, it invites the elitist and paternalist objections raised against nineteenthcentury liberal perfectionism.
VsDworkin, Gerald: These problems are mitigated by conceptions of autonomy according to which ‘the fundamental idea in autonomy is that of authoring one’s own world without being subject to the will of others’ (Young, 1986(2): 19).
Young: An autonomous person employs her critical faculties to evaluate and choose her aims and projects in such a way that they are truly hers, rather than simply imposed by, or unreflectively taken over from, others. Autonomy is thus understood as ‘an ideal of self-creation … Autonomy is opposed to a life of coerced choices. It contrasts with a life of no choices, or of drifting through life without ever exercising one’s capacity to choose’ (Raz, 1986(3): 370, 371). This conception of autonomy is thus a much more open-ended, and so less controversial, ideal than the ideals of either self-realization or project pursuit. >Autonomy/Gaus.


1. Gaus, Gerald F. (1983a) The Modern Liberal Theory of Man. New York: St Martin’s.
2. Young, Robert (1986) Personal Autonomy: Beyond Negative and Positive Freedom. London: Croom-Helm.
3. Raz, Joseph (1986) The Morality of Freedom. Oxford: Clarendon.


Gaus, Gerald F. 2004. „The Diversity of Comprehensive Liberalisms.“ In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Young, Robert
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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