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Towards a Horizontal Theory of Autonomy

Whittingham, Fiona; (2021) Towards a Horizontal Theory of Autonomy. Masters thesis (M.Phil.Stud), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis criticises 'hierarchical' accounts of personal autonomy, and outlines the core features of an alternative, 'horizontal' account. It specifically focuses on the conditions of autonomous action. The current dominant approaches to the phenomenon of personal autonomy, or self-governance, tend to isolate certain privileged aspects of the self, that wield control when an agent is autonomous. In this sense, they can be labelled as 'hierarchical' accounts. For instance, Frankfurt's early (1971) account bases the conditions for autonomous action in conformity with an individual's higher-order volitions. However, I argue that such 'hierarchical' approaches are unsatisfactory. Bringing in considerations from Buss (1994, 2013), I argue that they are unable to adequately account for the phenomenon of nonautonomous action, or to explain how these privileged aspects of the soul exert authority over the rest. Instead, I argue for a 'horizontal' account of the self-relation involved when an individual acts autonomously. Such an account does not locate the conditions for autonomous action in some limited subsection of the self, but instead takes a more holistic approach to the aspects of the self that can be involved in self-governance. I suggest that the positive conditions for personal autonomy can instead be understood to involve the individual's conceptualisation of the decision-situation before them, and the range of factors incorporated into their decision-making. Under this kind of account, personal autonomy is a notion admitting of degrees.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil.Stud
Title: Towards a Horizontal Theory of Autonomy
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10141495
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