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CPP Colloquium with Joel Anderson: The Democratization of Autonomy

  • Joel Anderson (Utrecht)
Thursday 10 March 2016
CPP Colloquia 2015-2016 & 2016-2017
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

The Center for Political Philosophy in Leiden is pleased to announce a talk by

Joel Anderson (Utrecht): “The Democratization of Autonomy”


A wide range of recent social developments have heightened the demands placed on people to keep up. These often give rise to what I call “autonomy gaps,” discrepancies between institutionalized expectations regarding autonomy skills (esp. capacities for self-control and decision-making), and the level of these skills that individuals ordinarily have. Characterizing a number of social pathologies in terms of “autonomy gaps” provides a more perspicuous analysis of the constellation of problems involved here – the problematique. But it also thematizes the normative question of just how much autonomy it is best to presuppose one another to have, and the extent to which our institutions should presuppose this.

In this paper, I propose a way of analyzing this normative issue in terms of the “democratization of autonomy.” Drawing on parallels with the contested meaning of “literacy” in campaigns to promote active and responsible citizenship, I outline three dimensions along with the democratization of autonomy can be understood – enablement, inclusion, and self-determination – and show how normative demands for self-determination can be applied to the notion of autonomy itself to avoid a functionalization of its normative force. This shifts to the foreground political-ethical question of how much autonomy-competence it is appropriate for us to expect of one another in specific contexts.

About Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson is an associate professor of philosophy in the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University. His research focus lies at the intersection of moral psychology, critical social theory, ethics, philosophical anthropology, and political philosophy, with a particular emphasis on how social institutions can enable autonomous agency without sliding into paternalism. He is co-editor of Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism (with John Christman) and Disability and Universal Human Rights (with Jos Philips). As an Associate Editor for Philosophical Explorations he also edited a special issue entitled “Free Will as Part of Nature: Habermas and His Critics.” He has directed several interdisciplinary research projects: on citizen competence and voting advice applications; on disability rights; and on e-coaching for health-related procrastination (http://scaffoldingintentions.phil.uu.nl). He is currently writing a book developing the concept of “autonomy gaps.”


For further questions please contact dr. Dorota Mokrosinska at d.m.mokrosinska@phil.leidenuniv.nl

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