The place of autonomy within liberalism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction. My concern in this chapter is the place of autonomy within liberalism, understood as a public morality. To what extent is liberal morality necessarily committed to some doctrine of autonomy, and what is the nature of this doctrine? I begin (Section II) by briefly explicating my understanding of liberalism, which is based on the fundamental liberal principle – that all interferences with action stand in need of justification. Section III then defends my first core claim: given a certain compelling view of the nature of moral reasons, the fundamental liberal principle presupposes a Kantian conception of morally autonomous agents. I then consider (Section IV) an implication of the fundamental liberal principle when applied to public morality and the law – that an interference with liberty must be justified to everyone. This public justification principle, I argue, constitutes a version of Kant's categorical imperative; thus liberalism is committed to not only autonomy of the will (Section III) but a substantive morality of autonomy. By the end of Section IV, I will have shown that liberal morality is committed to what may be broadly deemed a “Kantian” conception of moral autonomy. In Section V, I show how this necessary presupposition of moral autonomy in liberal public morality implies a further commitment to one interpretation of the much-discussed ideal of “personal autonomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAutonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism
Subtitle of host publicationNew Essays
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages272-306
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9780511610325
ISBN (Print)0521839513, 9780521839518
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The place of autonomy within liberalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Gaus, G. F. (2005). The place of autonomy within liberalism. In Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays (pp. 272-306). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511610325.014