Inclusive Autonomy: A Theory of Freedom for Everyone
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Persons with cognitive disabilities and nonhuman animals are denied the right to make personal choices because it is claimed that they are not autonomous, for autonomy requires the capacity to revise one’s preferences and to have second-order desires. In this thesis, I argue first that this account of autonomy (that I call ‘rational autonomy’) does not provide a satisfying foundation to the right to make personal choices and to the interest in liberty, even for the paradigmatic cases of humans deemed rational agents; second, I propose and develop a new conception, named ‘inclusive autonomy’, that is intended to do justice to rational agents, persons with cognitive abilities, and nonhuman animals. This enquiry involves multiple steps. First, I criticize the way rational autonomy intends to support a right to make personal choices, by arguing it is empirically inaccurate, that it could be perfectionist or elitist if it is deemed as a requirement rather than a value to promote, and that it generally fails to explain why choices that have not been rationally revised cannot be protected by the right in question. Second, I argue that persons with cognitive disabilities and nonhuman animals also possess an interest in liberty, and especially an objective interest in non-domination, and for the same reasons as rational agents. Third, after assessing a few notable alternatives to rational autonomy, I identify four desiderata for a satisfying conception: the balance between the right to take risks and paternalism, the antidomination requirement, the anti-ableist requirement, and the social support requirement. Inclusive autonomy, defined as the ability to form subjectively defined goods, is equipped to address these desiderata if it is further supplied by an account of preference formation and a theory of paternalism. For these reasons, I explain how the structuring of opportunities and the interest in non-domination can help individuals to develop authentic preferences, even when they are unable to revise their desires; and I discuss three provisos—the competence threshold, the social support principle, and the limited intervention requirement—that impose conditions for paternalistic interventions while enabling agents to enjoy autonomy to the greatest extent possible.