Title page for ETD etd-0411103-101753

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Naquin, Paul Jude
URN etd-0411103-101753
Title The Need for Autonomy
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Philosophy and Religious Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
James Stacey Taylor Committee Chair
Husain Sarkar Committee Member
James Spence Committee Member
  • Sigurdur Kristinsson
  • Henry Richardson
Date of Defense 2003-04-07
Availability unrestricted
Autonomy researchers over the last three decades have largely focused on the hierarchical, content-neutral theories proposed by Harry Frankfurt and, to a lesser degree, Gerald Dworkin. Both of these theories claim that one must have higher-order endorsement of her lower-order desires to be autonomous with respect to the lower-order desires. However, neither of these theories makes the claim that one must be autonomous with respect to the higher-order endorsing desire. This leads to a dilemma known as the ab initio problem. Specifically, the problem is that it is not clear how one can become autonomous with respect to one desire by appealing to a desire to which one does not bear an autonomous relation.

In this essay, I attempt to argue that the ab initio problem can be solved by modifying the currently content-neutral theories to be instead substantive. In other words, I claim that a hierarchical account of autonomy must appeal to a theoretically-specified (substantive) mental state. I believe that the solution to the ab initio problem is to appeal to a need for self-worth as the appropriate mental state. The need for self-worth can be used to explain haw any individual identifies with her desires because an individual cannot rationally pursue a goal that she believes will damage her overall worth. Therefore, the need for self-worth explains how a person comes to be autonomous with respect to her desires.

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