My first book, Personal Autonomy in Society, grew out of the dissertation I wrote under the supervision of John Martin Fischer. I defend what is known as a relational theory of autonomy. The basic idea driving such accounts is that the concept of personal autonomy, or self-government, is social and relational. That is to say, the concept of autonomy incorporates content-laden, normative specifications about the social situation of the autonomous agent and, perhaps, about the values and commitments she embraces. On my account, the life of the fully autonomous person is free of the domination of persons or institutions that have the wherewithal to divest her of authority over those facets of her life that are foundational to her agency. Currently I am attempting to defend the account against fresh criticisms. It has been objected, for example, that a substantive account of the kind I defend requires autonomous persons to possess de facto control of a sort that is excessively demanding and thus empirically implausible. I wish to test the plausibility of the substantive account of personal autonomy given the ubiquity of oppressive social circumstances and the resistance to these circumstances on the part of citizens. A defense of the account forms the basis of "Is Social-Relational Autonomy a Plausible Ideal?" This paper will appear in Personal Autonomy and Social Oppression: Philosophical Perspectives, ed. Marina A. L. Oshana (Routledge, 2014).
Some of the papers I have written on the topic of autonomy are:
- “Autonomy and the Partial-Birth Abortion Act,” Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 42, No. 1, Spring 2011, pp. 46–60.
- “Autonomy and the Question of Authenticity,” Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 33, No. 3, July 2007.
- “Autonomy and Self-Identity,” in Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays, co-edited by John Christman and Joel Anderson, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
- “How Much Should We Value Autonomy?” Social Philosophy and Policy, Vol. 20, No. 2, (2003).
- “Personal Autonomy and Society,” Journal of Social Philosophy, Volume 29, No. 1, Spring, 1998, pp. 81-102. Reprinted in Autonomie, ed. Monika Betzler, (Paderborn, Germany: Mentis Verlag).