A Critique of Autonomy

If this appears to be “moral philosophy week”, bear with me–I just keep having interesting conversations on the subject. On a couple occasions this week, the topic of autonomy has come up, usually as a principle to contrast with my favoured principle, utility. It is said that when we prioritise what is useful, we invariably use other people as means to ends, and in so doing violate their autonomy, which deontologically held to be sacrosanct and inviolate. While I have made arguments concerning “using people” in the past, I find myself ultimately dissatisfied with the contractualist appeal I have often resorted to (i.e. that rational people in a Rawlsian original position would agree to be used from time to time for the benefit of others on condition that everyone else agreed to be used from time to time as well). What I would like to do is refute the value of autonomy more totally, and, thanks to an idea I had late last night, I think I am in a position to do it.

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