The Concept of Autonomy In the western tradition, the view that individual autonomy is a basic moral and political value is very much a modern development. For historical discussions of autonomy, see SchneewindLindleyPart I. As such, it bears the weight of the controversies that this legacy has attracted.
Articles Roughly one month ago on March 9th,noted Washington Post editorialist Ruth Marcus published a brief essay arguing against state legislation that would prohibit the selective abortion of unborn babies who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
One week later, Marcus doubled-down on her earlier editorial, offering readers brief excerpts from a number of women who had written her in support of her position and sharing with the world their positive feelings about their own choices to abort their own children who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
In fact, it may well be the least influential source of their arguments and the one most likely to be repudiated by them. Far more persuasive to abortion advocates—and therefore far more important to their arguments—are the assumptions inherent in the worldview of hyper-individualism.
Perhaps the most astute analysis of individualism and modern American society is Habits of the Heart: Bellah and his colleagues. Originally published inHabits of the Heart traces out two distinct types of individualism present in contemporary American culture: Each of these forms of individualism are foundational to the thinking of advocates for abortion-on-demand, despite the fact in most cases these ideas operate as hidden or unacknowledged assumptions, which abortion advocates themselves would be hard-pressed to identify or even fully justify in any formal manner.
Regardless of any inability to formally articulate or defend these subtle yet pervasive ideological assumptions, they nonetheless play a profound role both in shaping the contours of contemporary debate and in supplying abortion advocates with what they often take to be the self-evident moral grounds for their advocacy.
The utilitarian individualist approaches the world and relationships with other people in terms of means-ends calculations of the potential personal pay-off that might result from pursuing a given course of action. In important ways, such people live lives of continuous risk management, carefully weighing opportunity costs and hazards against potential benefits to self as they go about navigating the unsure waters of everyday living.
Though fundamentally self-focused, such people are not necessarily aggressive hedonists, submitting to every passing whim that comes along in an endless quest to get whatever they happen to want the moment they happen to want it. In contrast to utilitarian individualism, though only in terms of techniques rather than ends sought, is the second form of individualism Bellah, et al.
Individual liberation and self-fulfillment are the central themes of expressive individualism. While expressive individualism grants little room in which obligation or responsibility to others or to a superordinate moral order might operate, it does acknowledge one small role for responsibility to play in the ethos of autonomous authenticity.
Indeed, to do anything less than fully embrace the freedom to be and to do as one pleases is ultimately construed as an act of bad faith, a sorrowful symptom of the false consciousness oppressive social and moral systems necessarily impose on the huddled masses yearning only to be free of constraint.
Personal choice, in the vision of modern hyper-individualism, is a sort of all-encompassing moral slogan. It is a word which occludes almost everything important: These favored terms acquire a Procrustean force.
Shallowness and dominance are two sides of the same coin. That was not the choice I would have made. However, even here Marcus is only able to approach the issue of selective abortion on demand in terms of personal autonomy.
Throughout these shared stories, the individualist ethic of unfettered choice and its attendant calculus of means and ends, of personal costs and benefits, resound and shape the narrative.pathways (essays) Kenneth Head. Personal autonomy and individual moral growth.
The term 'autonomy', from the Greek roots 'autos' and 'nomos' [self + law] refers to . Personal Autonomy and Individual Moral Growth The term 'autonomy', from the Greek roots 'autos' and 'nomos' [self + law] refers to the right or capacity of individuals to govern themselves.
Agents may be said to be autonomous if their actions are truly their own, if they may be said to possess moral liberty. Another view of autonomy stems from a constructionist position that autonomy is a moral value which results from social construction within the network of meanings and practices of a particular society and culture (Schneewind, ).
Autonomy. Autonomy is an individual’s capacity for self-determination or self-governance. This folk concept of autonomy blurs the distinctions that philosophers draw among personal autonomy, moral autonomy, and political autonomy.
Moral autonomy, usually traced back to Kant, is the capacity to deliberate and to give oneself the moral law. Individual autonomy is an idea that is generally understood to refer to the capacity to be one's own person, to live one's life according to reasons and motives that are taken as one's own and not the product of manipulative or distorting external forces.
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