Autonomy and the Demands of Love


J. David Velleman has argued that what it makes sense to care about out of love for someone is the unimpeded realization of her autonomy. Although Velleman refers to both Kantian and perfectionist notions of autonomy, a close look at his argument shows that the form of autonomy that he employs actually amounts instead to personal autonomy. I argue that there are in fact no value constraints on the objects of autonomous choice on this account of autonomy. The upshot of this claim is that a person may exercise personal autonomy without satisfying many other important normative demands. This suggests that Velleman’s endorsement of the unimpeded realization of one’s beloved’s autonomy is wrong, insofar as a beloved’s autonomous choice may, in securing her personal interests, thwart her achievement of important goods, especially moral goods. In such cases, we have reason to hinder the unimpeded realization of our beloved’s autonomy, precisely out of love for her. Although aiding the development of one’s beloved’s autonomy is clearly significant for many reasons, support for personal autonomy should not be seen as an absolute value in personal relationships or education generally.

Author Information
Mark Piper, James Madison University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ECERP2014
Stream: Ethics in Education

This paper is part of the ECERP2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon