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VulnerabilityNew Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy$
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Catriona Mackenzie, Wendy Rogers, and Susan Dodds

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199316649

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199316649.001.0001

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Autonomy and Vulnerability Entwined

Autonomy and Vulnerability Entwined

(p.134) 5 Autonomy and Vulnerability Entwined

Joel Anderson

Oxford University Press

Although vulnerability often diminishes a person's autonomy, this is not true in all senses. The realization of autonomy, understood as an ideal of personal agency, is entwined with various forms of vulnerability. This essay sketches a conception of autonomy as comprising deliberative, executive, self-interpretive, and critical autonomy-competencies developed and exercised within social practices. Drawing on theories of recognition, it then discusses two senses in which vulnerability to others contributes constitutively to autonomy: first, because autonomous agency is dependent on the normative pragmatics of mutual recognition; second, because participation in autonomy-promoting social practices is contingent on co-participants' attribution of competence to one another. The essay concludes by considering the question of the appropriateness of social and political arrangements that facilitate richer forms of autonomy but that also generate concomitantly higher levels of vulnerability.

Keywords:   vulnerability, autonomy, autonomy-competencies, recognition theory

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