“Relational Autonomy: Authenticity, Loneliness, and Self-determination”
Abstract: Most contemporary relational autonomy theorists, following Mackenzie’s (2014) defense of autonomy as a multidimensional concept, distinguish three axes of autonomy: self-determination, self-governance, and self-authorization. I focus, first, on the authenticity condition for self-governance and second, on the nature of the relationship between self-governance and self-determination. Authenticity conditions are meant to provide a mechanism for determining which features of the self, which values, traits, and desires, fall within the scope of successful self-governance. One of the main tasks of the authenticity condition is to address how unwanted features of the self can diminish self-governance insofar as these features and the desires and actions motivated by these features do not fall within the scope of an agent’s value system. I consider the relevance to autonomy of unwanted characteristics that have a particular constitutively relational structure, a structure that combines a) something the agent deeply values with b) unjust socio-political conditions to jointly constitute c) an unwanted feature of the self. I center for analysis a form of loneliness that is constituted in part by politically supported or imposed forms of failed relationality. I argue that this type of loneliness will typically fail the authenticity condition for self-governance, but that this failure does not diminish an agent’s ability to be self-governing. Instead, I argue that the diminishment of autonomy that arises from politically distributed loneliness arises because constraints on self-determination can also constrain self-governance. While constraints on self-determination can affect the inner life of an agent causally, by decreasing motivation to act on one’s values or when agents internalize the problematic norms reflected in the constraints they face, constraints on self-determination can also partially constitute elements of an agent’s motivational system without getting purchase through the agent’s sense of motivation or values.