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Introduction / Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays

By J. Christman and J.H. Anderson


Recent theoretical debates over political liberalism address a wide variety\ud of issues, from citizenship and minority rights to the role of constitutional\ud foundations and democratic deliberation. At stake in virtually all\ud of these discussions, however, is the nature of the autonomous agent,\ud whose perspective and interests are fundamental for the derivation of\ud liberal principles. The autonomous citizen acts as a model for the basic\ud interests protected by liberal principles of justice as well as the representative\ud rational agent whose hypothetical or actual choices serve to\ud legitimize those principles. Whether implicitly or explicitly, then, crucial\ud questions raised about the acceptability of the liberal project hinge\ud on questions about the meaning and representative authority of the autonomous\ud agent. Similarly, in the extensive recent philosophical literature\ud on the nature of autonomy, debates over the content-neutrality of\ud autonomy or the social conditions necessary for its exercise ultimately\ud turn on issues of the scope of privacy, the nature of rights, the scope of\ud our obligation to others, claims to welfare, and so on – the very issues\ud that are at the heart of discussions of liberalism regarding the legitimate\ud political, social, and legal order.\ud Despite the conceptual and practical interdependence of liberalism\ud and autonomy, however, the recent literature on liberalism has developed\ud without much engagement with the parallel boom in philosophical\ud work on autonomy, and vice versa. This book serves as a point of intersection\ud for these parallel paths. The chapters connect the lines of inquiry\ud centering on the concept of autonomy and the self found in relatively less\ud “political” areas of thought with the debates over the plausibility of liberalism\ud that have dominated political philosophy in the Euro-American tradition for some time. While the main focus of the collection is to\ud explore the intersection we are describing, the chapters also represent\ud efforts to make free-standing contributions to debates about autonomy\ud as well as to the foundations and operations of liberal justice itself.\ud In what follows, we begin by outlining the recent debates over autonomy,\ud before noting some of the challenges to liberalism that have motivated\ud current rethinking within political theory. We then discuss four\ud key themes at issue in both the debates over autonomy and the debates\ud over liberalism: value neutrality, justificatory regresses, the role of integration\ud and agreement, and the value of individualism. This is followed,\ud by a summary of each of the chapters, with a brief discussion of how the\ud individual essays create a dialogue among themselves concerning these\ud broad and fundamental issues of political philosophy

Topics: Wijsbegeerte
Year: 2005
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