Recognition in Relational Autonomy

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Title: Recognition in Relational Autonomy
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Tohn, Rachel
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: Recognition
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theses   ( marcgt )
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Abstract: In this thesis, I develop an understanding of relational autonomy that explores in some detail the ways in which recognition of an individual by others can affect that individual's autonomous agency. In addition to the necessary internal capacities for autonomy developed by relational autonomy's predecessors, and the necessary external conditions that relational autonomy puts forth, I argue that the inner mental states and attitudes of the people involved in any given situation play an equally important role in determining an individual's autonomy. In presenting this perspective, I offer a new way to look at autonomy � not as a strictly defined attribute that is either present or not, but as a fluid way of being that coherently and non-contradictorily adjusts and changes as an individual's social situation and position adjusts and changes. We see that there are ways to live autonomously even in exceptionally rigid social structures, given the proper circumstances and the proper mindsets. I do not offer a comprehensive evaluation of how contemporary understandings of autonomy ought to be structured, but instead present a foundational work that will hopefully spawn greater discussion and inquiry.
Statement of Responsibility: by Rachel Tohn
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Edidin, Aron

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2012 T6
System ID: NCFE004680:00001

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Material Information

Title: Recognition in Relational Autonomy
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Tohn, Rachel
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: Recognition
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: In this thesis, I develop an understanding of relational autonomy that explores in some detail the ways in which recognition of an individual by others can affect that individual's autonomous agency. In addition to the necessary internal capacities for autonomy developed by relational autonomy's predecessors, and the necessary external conditions that relational autonomy puts forth, I argue that the inner mental states and attitudes of the people involved in any given situation play an equally important role in determining an individual's autonomy. In presenting this perspective, I offer a new way to look at autonomy � not as a strictly defined attribute that is either present or not, but as a fluid way of being that coherently and non-contradictorily adjusts and changes as an individual's social situation and position adjusts and changes. We see that there are ways to live autonomously even in exceptionally rigid social structures, given the proper circumstances and the proper mindsets. I do not offer a comprehensive evaluation of how contemporary understandings of autonomy ought to be structured, but instead present a foundational work that will hopefully spawn greater discussion and inquiry.
Statement of Responsibility: by Rachel Tohn
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Edidin, Aron

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2012 T6
System ID: NCFE004680:00001

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ii A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to take the opportunity to thank the many people who were integral to this thesis success. I owe everyone who allow ed me to talk about it incessantly and to rudely interrupt others with exclamations of "that's what I'm writing my thesis on!" a huge debt of gratitude. Many thanks to Professor John Newman for helping me understand Confu cianism a little better hopefully I have done both him and it justice in my treatment A n enormous thank you to Professor Aron Edidin, without whom this thesis would not have been nearly the success that it is His guidance and support throughout every step of the process have been incomparable and invaluable, and I continually find myself in awe of his dedication to students and his enthusiasm for his work. And finally, thank you to everyone, my friends, family, and professors, who has supported, love d, and cared for me over the past four years. Because of you, I have grown more than I could ever have expected, and because of you, I feel secure in all the growth to come. You are in my heart and mind always.




iv R ECOGNITION IN R ELATIONAL A UTONOMY R ACHEL T OHN N EW C OLLEGE OF F LORIDA 2012 A BSTRACT In this thesis, I develop an understanding of relational autonomy that explores in some detail the ways in which recognition of an individual by others can affect that individual's autonomous agency. In addition to the necessary internal capacities for autonomy developed by relational autonomy's predecessors, and the necessary external cond itions that relational autonomy puts forth, I argue that the inner mental states and attitudes of the people involved in any given situation play an equally important role in determining an individual's autonomy. In presenting this perspective, I offer a new way to look at autonomy not as a strictly defined attribute that is either present or not, but as a fluid way of being that coherently and non contradictorily adjusts and changes as an individual's social situation and position adjusts and changes. We see that there are ways to live autonomously even in exceptionally rigid social structures, given the proper circumstances and the proper mindset s I do not offer a comprehensive evaluation of how contemporary understand ings of autonomy ought to be str uctured, but instead present a foundational work that will hopefully spawn greater discussion and inquiry. T HESIS S PONSOR S A PPROVAL S IGNATURE _____________________________ A RON E DIDIN ; H UMANITIES D IVISION


v I NTRODUCTION This thesis developed as an attempt to further understand ing of autonomous individuals as engaged, fully participatory members of a social community. Much of the popular understanding of autonomy (an understanding that is often reflected in academic and theoretical work) is that too heavy an imposition of social stru cture threatens the potential for autonomous life And, while this is a legitimate fear, it can result in overly strong constraints on what type of structure and what type of relationships between people are thought to be compatible with autonomous agency In my work, I attempt to dispel some of that fear and relax some of those constraints, to allow for a more realistic, more forgiving, and more broadly applicable theory of autonomy. It is not merely enough to say that an individual either is or is not a utonomous what could that possibly mean when people occupy so many different social roles and positions, and identify in so many different ways? To understand autonomy we must first understand the many nuances of social relationships, the dynamics of po wer exchange that occur throughout human interaction, and the endless shifting of contexts and situations to which people adapt and respond, shaping their own behavior as needed. Nor is it enough to categorize social structures into two groups compatibl e with autonomous agency, restrictive of autonomous agency. Such structures are themselves dependent upon the people that inhabit them, upon the attitudes and behaviors and actions that determine the atmosphere, upon the choices that form a certain intera ction, and distinguish it from all the others. It would be a monumental, impossible task to attempt to discern and describe all the possible combinations of human interaction and social situation; to then try to


vi determine which in particular allow for auto nomous agency and which do not would be doubly insurmountable. I do not attempt that. Instead, I examine some general themes and principles that will be helpful in making our understanding of autonomy more directly applicable to the ways in which people actually conduct their lives, and which hopefully allows for a more generous interpretation of how autonomy can function in a wider variety of cultures and social structures. Let me be a little more specific. Discussions of autonomy that address how autonomy fits into social relationships are often concerned with the external nature of those relationships, and how a situation may or may not structurally affect the potential fo r autonomous agency. A valid concern, this raises some crucial points about how an individual's perception of her own autonomy might not accurately reflect the nature of the environment she actually inhabits. However, in the attempt to characterize auton omy in terms of external structure rather than internal attitude or thought the discussion fails to account for how others' attitudes toward the individual shape others' behavior towar d her. I try to incorporate the se attitudes, and introduce the concept of recognition as a crucial component of any autonomy discussion. By incorporating the way individuals are recognized by others into our understanding of autonomy, I open the discussion to better allow for the nuance and subtlety in behavior that can det ermine whether an environment is or is not suitable for autonomous agency I introduce and defend the introduction of recognition into the autonomy discussion ( "autonomy discussion" meaning simply the conglomeration of the various philosophical accounts of autonomy) in three steps. First, I trace a brief history of the autonomy discussion from some of its roots to two of the more prominent lines of


vii argument on the subject. Here, I define Marina Oshana's conception of relational autonomy, which serves as t he foundation for my argument for recognition. Second, I carve out a large section to develop a series of in depth examples that illustrate the wide scope of possible lifestyles that may have the potential for autonomous agency, and then identify some pot entially problematic aspects of those lifestyles. Finally, I introduce and develop the idea o f recognition in response to the se potential problems, using recognition as a way to clarify the discussion and identify the right kind of conditions to be explor ed when considering the possibility for autonomous agency Following Oshana's example, I will say from the beginning that while there are many different types of autonomy available for examination political autonomy, personal autonomy, moral autonomy t his thesis is concerned primarily with personal autonomy. Oshana describes this difference, as well as an outline of what it means to be personally autonomous, far more eloquently than I could ever hope to, and I encourage any who are reading this thesis or interested in the notion of personal autonomy in general to read (at least) Chapter 1 of her book, Personal Autonomy in Society For my part, I will content myself with a quote that most effectively depicts the type of autonomy I address: In short, per sonal autonomy is a property of a person who manages matters of fundamental consequence to her agency and to the direction of her life. Autonomy calls for agential power in the form of psychological freedom mastery of one's will as well as power and a uthority within certain fundamental social roles and arrangements. 1 Readers will probably find that the end of the thesis leaves them with a wealth of other questions and possibilities to discuss. This is completely understandable, and quite 1 Oshana, Marina. Personal Autonomy in Society Burlingotn, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006. 4.


viii desirable, a s it continues to apply the autonomy discussion to the modern world, and opens it to the potential for even greater understanding. This, in turn, will hopefully lead to a more critical engagement with autonomy discussions and an awareness of how new under standings can affect the ways in which we choose to situate ourselves and conduct our lives as social beings.


1 C HAPTER 1 In this chapter, we will conduct a brief survey of philosophical accounts of autonomy with particular attention to how these discussions have evolved in response to one another. A brief overview of how approaches to autonomy have developed will provide insight into how current discussions are framed, and will help to highlight how disput ing opinions still have something to gain from one another. Presenting autonomy in this fashion also sets a good foundation for my own discussion of autonomy, which takes the primary principles of a relational autonomy account and introduces a new concept one that has its roots in the procedural and historical accounts that relational accounts attempt to correct ¤ 1.1 K ANT S A UTONOMY Early discussions of autonomy focused on the inner conflict humans experience between their rationality and their des ires. To what extent the two interact, how rationality functions to curb or facilitate desire, how desire influences the process of rational thought all of these issues fundamentally question how a human being structures her mind and actions. The funda mental issue for autonomy theorists is the concern that an individual makes her own choices, that she is self governing, and that she is not subject to undue influences. These influences can come as much from within as without, and many theories of autono my maintain that the most autonomous decisions are the ones arrived at rationally, whereas some of the least autonomous are born of unchecked desire. Kant's work in moral philosophy highlights the tension between reason and desire, and develops a theory o f autonomy as the triumph of rational action over desire.


2 Kant's moral theory hinges on the basic premise that the rational human will is an autonomous one. An individual's capacity to live a moral life relies on her ability to critically reflect on her a ctions and rationally decide how they fit, or ought to fit, into a larger moral system. The rational will establishes laws for itself and then follows them according to its decision to do so. It is also important to Kant that the will be negatively as w ell as positively free. Not only does the will require the positive freedom of ability to write its own laws, but it also must be free from influence and determination by external forces. A moral philosophy requires an autonomous will for a couple of re asons. In deciding how to act and what is moral, the will must remove itself from all desire and consider its actions from a purely rational perspective. A purely rational will gives only laws that universally apply; it would not be able to justify any o ther type of law as truly rational since it could not be universally applicable. Kant's argument that autonomous action is the quelling of all desire and the consistent exercise of reason stresses the value of self control. An autonomous being is one wh o is self governing, and if that person follows his desires rather than rational reflection, then he is not governing himself, but rather is a slave to those desires. Kant draws a hard, conclusive line between rationality and desire (a much contested line, as we shall shortly see). The rational will, on its own, is entirely free of desire, or really from any interference from the more "animal" side of humans. So far as Kant is concerned, desire functions only to obstruct the aims of rationality. By this standard, a fully autonomous person never submits to the demands of his desires, but acts only in accordance with his rationality. Submission of any level to desire would be


3 precisely that a sacrifice of will to an impulse or an urge that has no true j ustification. P ROBLEMS WITH THE K ANTIAN A PPROACH Contemporary thought takes strong issue with the extremity of Kant's stance on the rationality desire divide. Marginalizing desire as problematic and unproductive denies a large part of what makes up the ba sic human experience, and demands a strict compartmentalization of humans' constitutions that is intuitively very unattractive. For this reason, contemporary autonomy theories work to better understand the relationship between rationality and desire as jo intly contributing to an autonomous individual's constitution. ¤ 1.2 A UTHENTICITY AND I NTERNAL S TATES OF D ESIRE Not only does it seem impractical to demand a complete separation from one's desire, it is also apparent that desire is a natural part of humans' lives and is often useful in choosing between one action or another. We run into problems of Kant's concern w hen our desires control our actions in ways that bypass critical reflection. C ertainly the possibility exists that our desires might run rampant with us if we lack any sort of critically reflective mechanism with which we can evaluate and endor se or reject them. In this instance, we act precisely the opposite of autonomously; instead we live as slave s to urges we either cannot control, or have no wish to. However, suppressing all desire results in a feeling of alienation from certain parts of the self, and if desire is neither inherently "wrong" in a moral sense, nor inherently antithetical to autonomous rational action, then a new understanding of what it means to be autonomous is necessary. This new understanding places the same importance o n rational function in autonomous agents, but instead of positing rationality


4 as the weapon with which to defeat desire, it argues that critical reflection on and endorsement of desires and actions is the necessary condition for autonomy. This account emp hasizes authenticity a person's actions must be authentically her own in order for them to be autonomous. Harry Frankfurt's formulation of autonomy as authenticity introduces a hierarchy of desire and endorsement that serves to evaluate whether a desire has been critically endorsed or not. Consider someone who does not have any sort of critical perspective on her desires. This person, the wanton, is content to, or only capable of, acting upon desires as they come to her, without thought or attention to the critical setting of priorities. The lack of critical attention to her desires bars the wanton from constructively ordering or prioritizing her activities. Thankfully, most people do engage in a critically reflective process and have an idea of thei r preferences regarding most of their actions and choices. The process of making choices demands an examination of one's desires and priorities, and especially complex choices can create an internal tension as different desires collide. Frankfurt charact erizes the working out of this tension in terms of the relationships between first and second order desires. First order desires "are simply desires to do or not to do one thing or another." 1 Second order desires, however, come about through a process of reflective self endorsement, bringing to conscious awareness those first order desires and, in a sense, opening them up for discussion. A second order desire determines, given that A wants x whether A also wants to want x. In other words, A must decide whether she approves of her desire for ice cream, and only once she does approve of it does she allow 1 Frankfurt, Harry. "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person." Journal of Philosophy 68.1 (1971). pg. 7


5 herself to act upon it. In terms of authenticity, second order desires authenticate first order desires in such a way so as to validate those desires th at an individual chooses to endorse and then potentially act upon. P ROBLEMS W ITH F RANKFURT S A CCOUNT While Frankfurt's introduction of higher order desires is crucial when considering the reflective process, it too lacks some key aspects of a complete conc eption of autonomy. From a logical perspective, it opens the floor for an infinite regress: suppose A desires ice cream, and then, upon reflecting upon that desire, decides that she does, in fact, want to want ice cream. Is it not possible, then, for A t o express a third order desire say, a want to not want to want ice cream (and so on and so forth)? There is no limit to the amount of reflection in which A might engage (barring her mental capacity to keep an infinite number of desires present in her mi nd at once), and what is to say which of these desires is the final, ultimate deciding factor in whether A chooses to eat the ice cream? Is it sufficient for autonomy if an individual only engages with her desires in the second order, or the third, or the fourth? What is to say those higher ordered desires are themselves properly endorsed? A more substantial problem with Frankfurt's theory is this: while Frankfurt does address whether an individual approves of her desires or not, he does not consider how t he individual came to possess those desires, nor whether the process by which she endorses them is authentically her own. The conception of autonomy as an ordering of desire is a static one that fails to address how the process by which an individual come s to order her desires may or may not be authentically that individual's own. Frankfurt establishes that an individual must have a coherent identity in order to be autonomous,


6 and while this is true, it is not sufficient for our concerns. ¤ 1.3 P ROCED URAL AND H ISTORICAL A UTONOMY Answers to both the issues I outlined above can be formulated by shifting the focus of autonomy to the process by which individuals become autonomous and make autonomous decisions, a formulation referred to as procedural autono my, which developed in response to the authenticity argument. At the heart of procedural autonomy lies the stipulation that an individual's rational capabilities mean little if she chooses not to reflect on her thoughts (for convenience, I will use the te rm "thoughts and desires" to reference an individual's thoughts, values, desires, beliefs, and other mental processes that make up the driving forces behind the individual's decisions; all these other processes are to be understood as contained within the phrase) and validate them. The process by which this reflection occurs and the factors that info rm it, are just as important if not more so, for autonomy as the act of making choices, as it is conceivable that a coherent hierarchy of desires could be ext ernally imposed by a process that violates the autonomy of the individual agent. Procedural autonomy is a broad category, but critical reflection remains a central tenet among its various proponents. One does not, as a reading of Frankfurt might suggest, simply find oneself with well ordered first and second order desires. The reflective process represents a complex, intricate system of many layers, and an account of autonomy must pay heed to the multi faceted nature of an individual's internal compositio n. Equally important to the internal coherence of desire, etc., is the process by which thoughts and desires come to be held by an individual. Procedural autonomy pays close attention to whether an individual had a certain way of being or value forced up on


7 her, or whether she came to it of her own accord, or was at least consciously complicit in its adoption. Marilyn Friedman develops an account of procedural autonomy that (among other things) illustrates this point well. As she is outlining her basic fo rmulation of autonomy in the first chapter of her book, Autonomy, Gender, Politics she notes: "For choices and actions to be autonomous, the choosing and acting self as the particular self she is must play a role in determining them." 2 Friedman is parti cularly concerned that the self determining individual identifies with her wants and desires in a way that makes them "truly hers," and in order for that to be the case, self reflection must play a critical role in the decision making process: "Self reflec tion is the process in which, roughly, a whole self takes a stance toward particular wants and values she finds herself to have. Self reflective reaffirmation brings the (whole) self into accord with some of those wants or values. A person's self reflecti ons give a crucial imprimatur to the wants and concerns on which they focus approvingly. Those wants and concerns become more truly a (whole) person's own.'" 3 One of the main questio ns of procedural autonomy concerns to what extent reflection and decisi on making originate in the individual: does she come to her beliefs and choices through her own methods, or are they externally motivated? If an individual's valuation of specific thoughts occurred only because someone, say her mother, insists that she val ue those thoughts (to the exclusion of others), then it would be fair to postulate that, despite the fact that the individual has ordered her desires in accordance with her coherent understanding of her own identity, she as yet does not value her own proce ss of reflection on those desires. An individual who does not value her 2 Friedman, Marilyn. Autonomy, Gender, Politics New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003. 4 3 Friedman, 5


8 own beliefs and decisions, but wholly relies or is entirely dependent on the opinions and influence of others cannot be considered autonomous. Of course, other theories of procedural a utonomy also exist, with emphasi s on other aspects of the processes involved with autonomous agency. John Christman developed a version of procedural autonomy that emphasizes the history of the autonomous person, which addresses in particular the issue o f maintaining a consistent identity. Christman holds that, when thinking about self governance, considering the nature of the individual's past is crucial for forming an idea of their current state. 4 Christman highlights several factors necessary for dete rmining the autonomy of an individual. In addition to the individual possessing the internal capacities necessary for autonomous agency meaning that his mind must be functioning properly, he is not insane, hypnotized, or otherwise incapacitated, and he can express to himself his thoughts and consider them rationally the individual must also have a personal history that enables autonomous action. Responding to the hierarchical understanding of autonomy outlined above, Christman argues that if an indivi dual has been subject to "overt past manipulation, oppressive upbringing, or severely constricted freedom," then his embracing of his first order desires by means of second order ones still "lacks something essential to autonomy and freedom." 5 An individua l's autonomy depends on whether she has grown up in such a way so as to allow for autonomous action. This personal history affects the individual's autonomy in two ways: whether the individual feels the opinions and values he holds are authentically his o wn, and, regardless of how he feels about them, whether his history 4 Christman, John. The Politics of Persons New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 5 Christman, 137


9 contributed to the holding of those opinions and values in such a way so as to still honor his (potential for) autonomy. When an individual reflects on a thought or value (especially a va lue), he also will reflect on how he came to hold that thought or value. If the idea was forced upon him in such a way that he feels it is not his own, or does not correspond to his self conception, then he cannot say he holds it of his own volition, and cannot act autonomously so long as he obeys this thought or value that he does not hold freely. Christman characterizes this idea as one of alienation the feeling not only of not identifying with a personal trait, but of desiring to free oneself from it of needing "to repudiate that desire or trait, to reject it and alter it as much as possible, and to resist its effects." 6 Unlike other accounts of autonomy that take a subjectivist approach, Christman does not attribute the development of autonomy solel y to the individual. He does maintain that autonomy comes about by virtue of the individual's critical reflective process, but he does not discount the influence of social and environmental factors on this development. Circumstances that surround the gro wth of an individual from infant to adult all play roles in shaping that person, whether by introducing various amounts of oppression into the individual's life, or encouraging her growth. While ultimately the autonomous individual governs herself, she ca nnot help but be influenced by her surroundings. It is only as the individual grows and learns to reflect more critically on herself and her traits and values that she gains some measure of control over whether she chooses to accept or reject those influe nces as part of her identity. P ROBLEMS WITH THE P ROCEDURAL / H ISTORICAL A CCOUNTS 6 Christman, 144


10 This acknowledgement of the influence of social situation on autonomy is an important step toward a more comprehensive understanding of autonomy, but is arguably still not enough. Marina Oshana and other proponents of relational autonomy would argue that Christman takes too subjectivist an approach to autonomy. He discusses autonomy in terms of how the individual behaves regarding her thoughts and actions, how the individual thinks and reflects, and whether the individual considers herself to be autonomou s. For Christman, the discussion is of an individual's "true" self or "inner citadel," a self that inhabits the individual on a deep level, and, while it can be influenced by outside forces, is ultimately a self contained phenomenon. Critics of subjecti vist autonomy, like Oshana, contend that social influences are relevant in more ways than Christman believes them to be, and that we must always understand the individual as being socially situated. The strength of these social pressures and the nature of an individual's relationship with other people are also responsible for determining autonomy, and ought not to be discredited or ignored. While it is important that an individual possess all the internal capacities necessary for autonomy, there are exter nal conditions that must also be satisfied, something that Christman and other procedural autonomists do not address. Relational autonomy objects that, from a procedural perspective, an individual who is enslaved without hope of freedom or escape, and wit h no say whatsoever over her position, can still be considered autonomous if the conditions of her imprisonment are to her liking so long as her attitude toward it rises from the appropriate procedures of critical reflection and the appropriate kind of hi story Christman's (and others like him) lack of detailed attention to the importance of


11 social situation has paved the way for other theorists to consider a new approach to autonomy. This approach places the individual within a large context of her relat ionships to others and her social situation. Oshana has called this formulation "social relational autonomy," and it is with her construction of that term that we deal now. ¤ 1.4 R ELATIONAL A UTONOMY Relational autonomy holds that having all the inter nal constitution and proper (and properly acquired) mental states necessary for autonomy is not sufficient for an individual to be autonomous if that individual is not also socially situated in the right ways. The theory of relational autonomy differs fro m structural or historical autonomy in two aspects, and with these differences hopes to better understand autonomy as being socially situated. In Personal Autonomy in Society Oshana sets forth a conception of autonomy that draws the focus away from the in ner mental states of the individual in question and toward the social situation in which individuals live. She agrees with previous theorists that individuals do need to have certain internal capacities in order to be autonomous, but rather than explainin g autonomy solely in terms of an individual's perception of her own capacities and their origins, "the [social relational] account explains autonomy as depending on the social standing of the agent along with facts about her mental state and dispositional temperament." 7 Oshana wishes to present a fully naturalized account of autonomy. "T he idea [of an inner citadel] suggests a picture of autonomy as relegated to the background of social life," 8 and Oshana sees this as a serious problem. Not only should a theory of autonomy 7 Oshana, 174 8 Oshana, 51


12 be something "measurable," it is also important that it present a comprehensive understanding of all the components that make up an autonomous agent, and this means that it must take into account how external social factors affect the individual, regardless of how the individual might perceive those factors. Oshana and other proponents of relational auto nomy argue that a person's social situation and social history are important not only for the development of that person, but also have a continuous effect on that person's life and ability to exercise their autonomy. Any account of autonomy must therefor e take this into account: "Autonomy is a condition of persons constituted in large part by the social relationships people find themselves in and by the absence of other social relations [] appropriate social relations form an inherent part of what it mea ns to be self directed." 9 Oshana recognizes that developmental and historical accounts of autonomy do allow for the influence of social factors, but she thinks that they fail to sufficiently consider the power of social circumstance on individuals who we would otherwise already consider autonomous. 10 In order to demonstrate this point more clearly, Oshana gives several case studies of individuals who by a procedural or historical account would be autonomous, but when examined from a social relational point of view, are not. These examples are primarily ones in which an individual, possessing all of the internal capacities necessary for autonomy, voluntarily choose to sacrifice some measure of that autonomy to another person, people, or social structure (in Chapter 3, I will discuss these examples in greater detail). Oshana identifies seven conditions for autonomy: epistemic competence, 9 Oshana, 49 10 Oshana, 49


13 rationality, procedural independence, self respect, control, access to a range of relevant options, and substantive indepen dence. Epistemic competence, rationality, and self respect all refer to internal conditions that an individual must possess or experience, while procedural independence, control, access to options, and substantive independence concern a person's social si tuation (although control can fit into both categories when self control is included). Substantive independence is Oshana's most major contribution to this list, and it details the type of social situation an individual must find herself in in order to be autonomous, which is one that offers minimal restrictions on the individual and does its best to support and bolster the individual's self determination of the conduct of her life Relational autonomy offers an extremely important critique of other theori es of autonomy, and establishes very well the need to incorporate our understanding of the relationships between individuals and communities into the discussion. In her effort to naturalize autonomy, Oshana removes the discussion from the more abstract no tions of "inner citadels" and turns instead to an empirical examination of how social situation s affect an individual who fulfills all the internal criteria for autonomy. In this thesis, I would like to put forth my own version of relational autonomy. By and large, it resembles Oshana's account, but with a key difference. Oshana very drastically downplays the importance and power that an individual's mental state can have, arguing that it does not suffice if an individual feels autonomous if her social si tuation still denies that autonomy to her. In her attempts to argue such a strongly external account, Oshana fails to recognize the importance of understanding not just the mindset of the individual in question, but also the inner mental states of all tho se with


14 whom the individual interacts. If relational autonomy is truly going to incorporate what it means to be socially situated and to exist in a variety of relationships with others, it cannot limit itself to an examination of solely the external factor s of a situation; it must also take into account the multitudinous ways in which individuals or systems can interact with one another. In her set of conditions for autonomy, Oshana lists self respect. Within her explication of this condition, she notes t hat not just self respect is necessary for autonomy, but an individual must be respected by others. 11 Elsewhere in the book, Oshana alludes to this importance, but it fails to play an integral role in her argument, and is often contradicted by an insistenc e that inner mental states are not as important as external conditions in determining autonomy. This is the point to which I would like to object, and is thus the main crux of my thesis. The next two chapters will, by developing detailed examples, examine how important social situation is for autonomy, and introduce a variety of settings in which different types of social setting and different ways of social structure affect how the individuals in those settings are able to experience autonomy. Most impor tantly, I will develop the concept of recognition as being vital for any discussion of autonomy that wishes to posit human beings as social creatures who have the potential to exercise power and influence over one another. Just as Oshana introduced exampl es in which two individuals might have the same internal capacities but experience different levels of autonomy depending on their social situation, I would like to introduce examples in which two individuals with the same internal capacities and existing in similar social 11 Oshana, 81


15 settings experience different levels of autonomy depending on how they are recognized by others in those settings. Chapter 2 will introduce my three most detailed examples. Each of these three individuals lives in an extremely different social setting has very different sets of values and follows a different life path This chapter thus has two aims. First, it establishes these different social settings and gives a detailed account of the course of the individuals' lives (or, at least a more detailed account than those of typical philosophical examples) Second, it seeks to determine if these individuals find themselves in such a po sition where it makes sense to consider them autonomous In Chapter 3 we return to social setting and examine the many ways in which different types of settings and different types of relationships within those settings can affect autonomy. Applying these examinations to our examples, we will then be able to determine whether autonomy is possible even in very restrictive social settings, so long as the proper recognition still exists.


16 C HAPTER 2 In this second chapter, I establish the groundwork for my discussion of relational autonomy and some possible objections to (or variations on) Osh ana's defense of it. I will introduce three major examples of individuals in vastly different social situations and examine how autonomy functions (or does not function) in their lives, with the intention of better understanding the different forms autonom y takes across cultures and communities. I have a couple of aims in developing these examples. The first is to clearly illustrate the prominent and unavoidable role an individual's social situation plays in all aspects of the growth and development of tha t individual. Second, I would like to introduce the hypothesis that living in a heavily structured social environment does not necessarily preclude the possibility of autonomous individuals within that environment, but that other factors must also be take n into consideration. This idea will then be more fully explored in Chapter 3 I approach this second goal, at least in this preliminary stage, by contrasting two different kinds of structured environments, and suggesting that autonomy may be possible in one, but not in the other. In what follows, I will be developing three examples: a present day American businessman, a member of a traditional Confucian society, and a participant in the Indian caste system known as a Dalit. Some preliminary remarks abo ut my choices and the intent behind them may help to avoid initial misunderstanding. First, I do not wish to present these communities as being in opposition to one another, but simply as being different from one another Second, the examples are not mea nt to represent some broader hypothetical division of all communities. In fact, I mean to emphasize quite the opposite the broad spectrum of social structures (a spectrum that does not limit itself to


17 racial or national boundaries, but one that includes essentially any social situation in which one might participate) differ from one another in so many and such nuanced ways that an attempt to encapsulate them all in the span of this work is simply fruitless. So, while I did choose these examples because t heir respective social structures are so dramatically different from one another, they are not to be perceived as either complete opposites of one another, or as representative of a global division of social structures. Rather, each example poses interest ing questions for the autonomy discussion, and raises some key points about the nature of the relationship between an individual and her community (or communities). Prefacing my response to Oshana with a series of extensive examples allows me to consider i n detail some ways in which society and social situations affect, enable, and restrict autonomy. I will deal primarily with the contrast between a contemporary American and a traditional Confucian society, and will introduce the Dalit later in the chapter as a stark contrast to both of these. First, however, it will be helpful to detail some of the general structure of the American and Confucian societies I will be considering From there, I will introduce each individual example, beginning with a brief overview of the agents' lives and then moving to a more comprehensive look at how their childhood development and socialization compares (and contrasts) to one another. I will note in passing that I intentionally chose examples of individuals who are in a position to possess the ideal amount and form of autonomy relative to their communities. I will say more about this choice and some of its consequences in my conclusion. ¤2.1 A N A MERICAN S OCIETY As I mentioned above, it would be foolish to attempt an overreaching description


18 of a society or community that is itself composed of countless smaller, often overlapping communities, and the United States is an excellent example of that statement. Especi ally given the diversity of backgrounds of individuals and communities, as well as the shee r geographic size of the country, categorizing the United States into a single unified description is an impossible task. However, for the purposes of this example, I would like to address the basic principles that underlie a traditional understanding of American values and the role community plays regarding treatment of the individual, with the understanding that the pervasiveness of these principles varies in respe ct to different aspects of the country. American culture is centered primarily on a celebration and empowerment of the individual the ideal American society is presented as a community composed of unique, powerful individuals, and basic American principl es stress the value and importance of each individual as an individual This is not to say that American principles devalue the communal or ignore it entirely, but rather that the community is understood as functioning to support the individual, and not t he other way around. Respect for individual rights is of paramount importance, both culturally and legally (think of the importance and respect the Bill of Rights receives as being the principle foundation for and defense of civil liberties). Growing up i n the United States typically centers on realizing one's potential the American Dream is all about working up the ladder to a successful, self made life and career, no matter the adversity or challenges faced along the way. Self sufficiency and independ ent motivation are highly prized; phrases like "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" permeate the culture and reveal the structure of the American value set.


19 Much of the critical reflection on American structure evaluates how divisions of race, gender, an d economic class affect the individual's enjoyment of certain civil liberties and ability to succeed, but the solution to discrimination and adversity faced on account of these differences is not to homogenize, but rather to encourage and support differenc e as a key aspect of creating a successful society as a whole. American values in general focus on individual liberty and freedom; oppression, coercion, and restriction of the individual are, at least in theory, to be avoided at all costs, and eradicated w hen found. The extent to which this actually happens is open for debate, and many critiques of American culture emphasize the severe disconnect between perceived or proclaimed liberties and their actual practical manifestation. It is not the place of thi s thesis to enter into that discussion or to offer an opinion on how well American values and proclaimed practices are reflected in everyday life of a citizen, except to point out that the emphasis on the value and sanctity of the individual creates severa l deep misconceptions about the relationship between community and individual, as well as about the amount of independent power an individual p ossesses as compared to the degree of reliance on community function and social situation that individuals actual ly experience 1 Autonomy is a stated value in American structure, is often treated as synonymous with individual freedom, and stressed as being a core value, to be upheld over most others. Self governance and self determination are prized, sometimes at t he expense of the communitarian values that also exist. The ability to think critically and make 1 Incidentally, much of the critical reflection on American culture has resulted in trends that push for a more communitarian approach to American values, which suggests that views are shifting in regard t o how much value is placed on the individual over the community, reflecting a certain nostalgia for a more communitarian past.


20 informed, independent decisions is emphasized as a core component of an American citizen's education (again, at least in theory), and the development and grow th of an American child is shaped with an eye toward producing, at the end, a competent, autonomous adult. Being a "leader" is praised; a "follower" is treated negatively, often met with derision and scorn. People are (in theory) encouraged to rebel agai nst societal norms and establish themselves outside of normative, "oppressive" practices. This tendency to degrade the importance and necessity of community as itself valuable (not merely as a means by which to enhance and enable individualism) leads to se veral misconceptions about how a community can work to enable and support autonomy, something that will be addressed throughout this thesis. As relational autonomists have already pointed out, the fact that individuals are socially situated is incredibly important when considering autonomy, and belonging to a community or holding values that were imparted because of one's position in a certain community is not inherently opposed to the possibility of autonomy. In the upcoming discussion of our American in dividual, especially his childhood, hopefully I will demonstrate how the influences of his community were what shaped him to hold the values he holds and what enabled him to become an autonomous adult at all. ¤2.2 A C ONFUCIAN S OCIETY Confucianism is ne ither a form of government nor a religion, but acts primarily as an ethical system that addresses how humans ought to live, both on their own and as participants in a social community. It not only explains what an ideal life is, but it lays out a strictly defined, exceptionally comprehensive set of conditions for how to create this life for oneself. By and large, Confucianism can be interpreted as the endorsement of


21 a particular set of values and then comprehensive instructions regarding how to live one's life in accordance with and committed to those values. 2 Because Confucianism has spanned such a long expanse of time, with intermittent periods of popularity and rejection, I am going to frame my example not on a particular time period or geographic loc ation, but instead will present an individual were he to live in what we might consider an exemplar y Confucian world. An ideal Confucian society (like the one I am positing here) would be a manifestation of Confucian values, both in and outside government The set of values that Confucianism espouses promotes the creation and maintenance of social harmony, the structuring of one's life in accordance with the Mandate of Heaven, and the education and self cultivation of the gentleman. 3 The gentleman, or nob le man, will act with the fulfillment and embodiment of these values as his primary motivating force. Confucian teachings postulate that not only ought a man strive to be "superior," but that there exists a specific way by which he can become so the wa y put forth in the texts and teachings. One of the central aspects of these teachings is li Li has many translations into English: "rites" or "rituals," or as "etiquette," "customs," or "rules of proper behavior." "Rites" and "rituals" do not refer to the religious connotations that Western thought would probably ascribe to them, but instead govern multitudinous aspects of daily life whether that be interaction with humans, animals, or even objects. Li dictates the appropriate way to wear clothes, d rink tea, 2 More information on how the Confucian tradition functioned (and functions) in Chinese culture can be found in Xinzhong Yao's bo ok, An introduction to Confucianism particularly Chapter 1. 3 William De Bary's book, The Trouble with Confucianism gives a detailed account of how the role of the noble man functioned in Chinese society, and is responsible for much of my characterizatio n of both Confucian teachings and the ideals of the noble man.


22 mourn, interact socially, govern a state, and so on. Its rules are passed down to community members by fathers, elders, government officials, and others who hold positions of power and respect in the community. Li promotes and enables a harmoni ous, peaceful community, composed of individuals whose driving motivations are harmony and peace, as well as a respect for community and for elders. Social harmony is of great importance to Confucian thought, and the structure li establishes reflects that priority. There are several texts that are central to Confucianism, and while it is not necessary to go over them all, I would like to briefly mention the Analects, which is a collection of aphorisms, anecdotes, quotes, dictates, and other sayings from Co nfucius and some of his disciples. 4 The Analects, one of the Confucian classic texts, details the structure and value of proper rituals and behavior, as discussed above, and serves as one of the cornerstones of the noble man's education. A large portion of the Analects concerns itself directly with the noble man, how he might go about cultivating himself properly and according to what values, as a minister to a prince or ruler, he ought to advise that prince. The structure of a Confucian society builds pr imarily from a constant striving toward the social harmony that is achieved by living according to ritual. Unlike the American example, where a community is usually characterized by what it does to support its individuals, and those individuals are encour aged to break free of structure for their own betterment, here the individuals work for the good of the community. Webs of interdependency are not only present, but necessary for both a prosperous individual life and the prosperity of the social community Indeed, the possibility for individual 4 Many, many translations of the Analects exist; the one used in reference to this text is Arthur Waley's translation, referenced in the bibliography.


23 happiness is inextricable from the necessity of social harmony an individual cannot be fulfilled if she lives in a tumultuous or poorly conducted community, and a community will not thrive if its members actively fight against its structure. The role of the noble man is to advise on this structure, and help guide the ruler to properly lead his people. ¤2.3 A N A MERICAN I NDIVIDUAL Having established a basic social context for my American and Confucian examples, we can now move on to the individual examples. Each illustrates a person who would in all likelihood both consider himself 5 to be autonomous and would be deemed autonomous by other members of his community. We will first look at an overview of their liv es, and then move on to a more detailed investigation of their childhoods. First, I introduce Alex, a white American male in his late forties. Alex is an only child born to upper middle class, college educated parents, each of whom had a successful career of their own before deciding to retire together. Growing up, Alex's parents made sure to provide for all of Alex's needs and the majority of his wants, but as he aged they increasingly emphasized the importance and value of self sufficiency and working f or what you want (as opposed to waiting for someone else to provide it). Alex took a job in high school to buy his own car, was entirely responsible for his college application process, and worked through college to help his parents cover his tuition cost s. Alex's parents stressed the importance of personal responsibility, and they expected that Alex be able to defend and justify his decisions, as well as atone for or 5 All three of my primary examples are mal e, because, as noted in the opening section, I wish to present examples of individuals who have the greatest possibility for autonomy in their society, and each of the societies I present exhibit a bias in favor of the male gender. My conclusion will incl ude a brief discussion of how gender roles (as well as class) affect an individual's capacity for autonomy, an effect that occurs across cultures.


24 correct them in the event that they ended poorly. His parents also instilled in him the value of dedication and self motivation, and consistently assured him that he was the only one capable of bringing about his own success, and that if he worked hard for it, he could do nearly anything he wanted. As a result, Alex entered his freshman year of college with several life goals already in place, and treated his undergraduate and graduate years as preparation for his future career. Once he left college, Alex took an entry level position at a business firm and worked his way up to an executive po sition. After serving there for several years, Alex left that company and formed his own, which became quite successful. He makes a hefty salary and owns a new car and an apartment in a large, urban city. His interest in his career has always won out ov er his personal relationships, although he has a solid social circle and is currently seeing someone. He might consider marriage in the future, but for the time being, he prefers living alone, without serious responsibility to others. As a community member and a taxpayer in particular, Alex is of the opinion that he has a voice in how his community and government function. He believes that he has a responsibility to his community to be an active participant in it, and follows local and national politics. He votes consistently, after careful research of issues and candidates. He also plays the stock market a little, and keeps an eye on the conduct and practices of businesses or companies in which he has invested. Most of Alex's dedication to his communit y stems from his belief that a community is only as strong as its members the community can only serve the individual if the individual empowers it to do so. Alex values the rights and power of the individual very strongly, as well as personal responsib ility, independence and self sufficiency, and freedom of choice.


25 ¤2.4 A C ONFUCIAN I NDIVIDUAL My second example is of an individual who lives in a traditional Confucian society. Li Ming is a minister to a prince. His family name, Li, comes to him from his father's line. He is in his late forties, has been married for fifteen years, and has two children. Ming is the third of five children, and one of two boys. He was born in a town some distance from the city in which he currently lives. His father was a magistrate for the town, and as a child Ming was always well provided for. As a child, Ming exhibited a great interest in and passion for his father's work, and his father took care to instruct him in the responsibilities and duties of a magistrate He emphasized not only the particular duties his occupation involved, but also the spirit in which a magistrate ought to conduct himself and carry out his responsibilities. Ming also learned to respect his father and his elders for their wisdom, to see k them for council, take their words to heart, and to obey their commands. After some time, Ming left his town to attend school, where his education consisted primarily of the Classics, and he spent the next portion of his life devoted to his studies. He was an avid student and his teachers supported his desire to understand the knowledge they imparted to him. He was not encouraged to develop ideas that extended beyond his understanding of his studies, but instead taught that the path he was learning to follow was the best of all possible paths. By the end of his studies, Ming agreed with his tutors on this point, and fully embraced his teachings as key for both living a fulfilling life and serving the people. After completing his education, Ming sat his district level exams and scored exceptionally well. For a short time, he returned to his town and joined his father as an


26 assistant. His father was very proud of him for performing so well in school, and thought him to be making good progress with his l ife. He often reminded Ming that his education was far from complete, and that he had much remaining to learn. He encouraged Ming to study politics, civil law, military strategy, and other subjects that would increase his understanding of the workings of the country. Ming's father felt a strong obligation to the care of his town and his people, an obligation that Ming both admired and emulated. While working with his father, Ming took great care to learn all the nuances of law, but spent more time watc hing how his father interacted with the people whose lives and concerns fell under his authority. His father acted not as though he desired to exact punishments for wrongdoings, but instead concerned himself with finding what he thought to be the most jus t solution to any problem. He enforced laws strictly, and welcomed those who came to him for advice. By the time Ming sat the provincial exams, he felt as though he truly understood the system he had spent so many years studying. Watching his father so admirably live the principles he learned from his teachers fully convinced Ming that the best way to structure a social system was by the system he had studied: a strict legal structure tempered with kindness and benevolence toward others. He performed ad mirably on his provincial level exams, and devoted his time to preparing for the national ones, at which he also succeeded. Since passing his national exams, a feat not accomplished by many, Ming has served as an advisor to the prince, first in a junior po sition, but advancing as the years passed to become one of the prince's most trusted and respected ministers. He is, to the prince, other ministers, and the people who meet him, a just, dignified noble man, wise


27 and dedicated to the service of his country and people. ¤2.5 S OME T HOUGHTS ON F ILIAL P IETY One of the major practices that Confucianism endorses and promotes is known as filial piety or the obedience of the son to the father. The son's obedience is of higher priority than any other social ob ligation, even after the father has died: for a period of three years following the father's death, the son must continue to live in accordance with what he believes his father's wishes to have been. A practice such as this appears to be about as incompat ible with autonomy as it is possible to be, and thus deserves a little attention. I will not attempt to defend filial piety as being completely compatible with autonomy, but I would like to illustrate how critically endorsing filial piety can still fit wi th the rest of Ming's life choices. Confucius does not present filial piety as obedience of the son to the father simply by virtue of their relationship. In other words, a son does not obey his father solely because he is his father and that, inherently demands obedience. Rather, a son obeys his father because to do so is the act of a humane, upright, superior man, and toward this state all men should strive. The intentionality behind individuals' actions is important for discussions of autonomy (a point we will discuss in much greater detail in the next chapter). In this case, the distinction between a son obeying his father because his relationship to his father commands it and a son obeying his father bec ause he is attempting to live his life in the best way possible is a crucial one. Trying to live one's life in the best way possible and trying to be the best person possible is, by and large, evidence of a person who knowingly directs his actions and end orses those actions and the thoughts, values, and beliefs behind them as his own.


28 That said, Ming is expected to obey his father without question long before he has had the chance to critically develop and evaluate his own ideas about the practice. Moreov er, even if Ming were to find upon inspection that he did not endorse the practice of filial piety, it would nonetheless still be expected of him, and he would have very little say in the matter. Thus, while it is important to note that filial piety does fit with Ming's life choices and value set (not only because he believes it is the best way to behave, but because he can see genuine value in accepting and following his father's wisdom), the rigidity of its structure in combination with the rigidity of h is father's expectations (Ming's father expects this piety whether or not Ming desires to give it) make it problematic for the full development of Ming's autonomous agency. ¤2.6 C HILD R EARING IN T WO C OMMUNITIES Turning away from one of the more proble matic aspects of Confucianism for autonomy, let us now focus on some ways that its structure does allow for the possible development of autonomous agents. Earlier, I promised to pay special attention to the childhood experiences of my two examples. The r eason behind this is that if social influences have such power over individuals as Oshana and other proponents of relational autonomy suggest (and I agree), then those influences will have their most powerful effect during developmental stages, when the in dividual is still dependent on others for most everything, and is in more of a position to absorb and learn, rather than originate thought and action. Examining the childhoods of my examples serves two purposes first, to explore in depth the strength an d pervasiveness of these social influences, and second to compare the two and hold them up to our standards for autonomy, whatever those may be.


29 Not only are the effects and strength of social influences more evident in communities that value social cohesi veness above individual desire, but the intentionality behind these influences is more apparent. My task in this section is therefore twofold one, to demonstrate that these social influences are no less present or intentional in communities that are no t so upfront about them, and two, to argue that being subject to such influences does not preclude any hope of becoming an autonomous adult. We begin with a more substantial look at how Alex and Ming were raised. Ming grew up in an environment where his p arents were not his sole authorities. While his father's word was, for all intents and purposes, law, he was by no means the only source of structure, wisdom, and guidance that Ming received throughout his childhood. Nor was Ming's instruction limited to his schoolteachers village elders, officials, anyone who had the capacity to, all participated in imparting to Ming the traditions, practices, and beliefs of the community. All of these authority figures taught Ming the same basic lesson: Ming and his entire community would be happiest if everyone worked toward a common goal and participated in shared values. Everyone around Ming lived by a firm, specific ethical code, a code that they carefully ingrained into Ming's own behavior. They taught him that the path to fulfillment and happiness is clearly marked with particular steps, and that this path is the best path for Ming to take into his heart. Throughout his rearing, Ming's parents and elders emphasized that in order for Ming to become the best man possible, and the best community member possible (the two being inextricable from one another), he must cultivate the appropriate behaviors and attitudes in himself. They provided him with the tools and the answers, but it remained


30 Ming's responsibility t o embody what they gave him his commitment to Confucian values would be empty if he did not critically endorse it as the best way to live. It was not enough for Ming to merely follow the dictates of his community and culture; he must strive to become th e superior man, not just in his actions, but also in the intentionality behind those actions. The kind of person Ming ought to become was never in question Ming has known, for as long as he has been able to comprehend, the kind of man he ought to be. As he grew older, he understood better how he should behave, and began to actively cultivate his behavior to mirror what he had been taught. Doing so brought him a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, a sense that carried through to his adult life. Thi s, in turn, contributed to his continuing desire to cultivate his behavior in accordance with the values he was taught. Alex's childhood transpired in a very different fashion than Ming's. The primary source of authority in his life came from his parents, with other adults taking a secondary role While Alex was always expected to respect other adults and pay them heed, he regarded his parents as his most important role models and the ultimate source of guidance for him. Even his grandparents and other f amily members played more of an auxiliary role than an active one, tending to be more a source of gifts and casual interactions than moral guidance and life advice. Early in his years, Alex's parents impressed upon him a strong sense of personal ownership while he was encouraged to share his toys with his friends, they always remained his toys, and so on. Alex's parents also took care to foster their son's competitive spirit, with the belief that he would be best served in the future if he learned


31 early to be ambitious and to always work toward creating the most beneficial situation for himself. Both of Alex's parents gained their success through developing a strong work ethic and always setting personal goals to achieve. Their concern for their communi ty regarded the extent to which it provided a healthy atmosphere for their son, with many opportunities as possible for him to grow and learn. They made sure to live in a community with a well regarded school system and plenty of opportunities for Alex to explore any extra curricular activities or sports he may have been interested in. Alex's parents worked hard to instill values of self reliance, self motivation, and critical thinking into Alex, in addition to developing those as crucial skills for their son. This is especially important to note, however Alex's parents not only wanted to help their son become as independent and self sufficient as possible, they raised him to highly value those traits as being some of the most desirable ones he could cul tivate. 6 Where Ming's parents and elders worked to instill a valuing of interdependence and community effort into Ming, Alex's parents focused instead on teaching their son the value of the individual, and of personal choice. Even when Alex was quite you ng and as yet lacked the capacity to make informed decisions for himself, his parents offered rationale for the decisions they made for him, and encouraged him to try to reason out for himself what the best choices to make would be. As Alex grew, his paren ts left more and more decision making power up to him, moving from an authoritative role to act instead as guides for his continued development. Although they retained legal authority over Alex's life until he turned eighteen, by the time he reached his s enior year in high school, Alex was the primary decision maker for 6 Note that the installation of these more individualized values did not come at the expense of more altruist ic values and morals; Alex's parents also taught him to respect his fellow man and the earth around him, to treat others with kindness, to be a team player, and so on.


32 most of the choices that determined his life path. Once Alex turned eighteen, his parents voluntarily relinquished any sort of official authority they held over him, although Alex continue d to turn to them for help and guidance throughout his young adult life and beyond that. Having sketched out their experiences, let us now begin our comparison. On the surface, Ming and Alex's childhoods appear radically different, and indeed they are. W here Ming grew up focused on following to the best of his ability a strict set of guidelines for the best way to conduct his life, with respect and reverence for his elders and for the wisdom of his ancestors ingrained into his thinking, Alex was taught to break free from those who raised him, to use them as tools for his own development, not in an entirely exploitative sense, but with an eye toward his growth as an individual, not as a community member. The roles that obedience, respect, critical thinking and self determination played differed widely between the two men. To find the similarities in Ming and Alex's upbringings, we must look beyond this basic content to the techniques employed in their raising. What is readily apparent in Ming's childhood is less so in Alex's, and therein lies the difficulty. Nevertheless, just as Ming's community quite intentionally shaped him into the kind of person that embodied community values, so did Alex's, as much by their strategic non participation in his life as by their participation. The fact that he has been shaped into a person who is more inclined to act independently of others does not change the fact that he possesses (and, more importantly, values) these characteristics because he was socialized to posse ss them. Alex was encouraged to develop his thinking and values as an independent person, and success was modeled for him as independent adults who made rational decisions, and


33 did not simply obey orders or blindly follow trends. The basic idea conveyed t o him was that a) success was a primary goal in life, and b) a community is only successful if its members are successful. More to the point, a successful community is one that promotes the success of its individual members. As such, while Alex was encou raged to develop his thinking and values, that encouragement was with the understanding that values Alex chose to espouse would be ones that would serve to make him a beneficial community member. Both Alex and Ming were reared in such a way that they can o nly genuin ely live by their values if they are internally motivated to endorse and enact those values. Alex and Ming share a crucial underlying mindset: neither will consider their actions and thoughts genuine endorsements of their values if they believe that they act in such a way because they are forced to. Let me be a little more clear. For Alex, this mindset is readily apparent he only values decisions that he believes he has made independently, influenced only by community input that he chooses to accept. For Ming, it is a little more difficult to see, but still there. Ming chooses to follow the will of his elders and act in accordance with Confucian values and practices rather than with his individual desires because he believes that by doing so he is creating himself into the best and happiest person he can be. Were he to obey his father simply because he is ordered to, without actually achieving any sort of fulfillment out of the act, or in contradiction to a belief that obeying his father was not the appropriate way to behave, then his actions would not be those of the superior man he strives to be Confucian teachings are very clear that merely carrying out their dictates is not sufficient to be a superior man; the individual must wholehearte dly endorse those


34 teachings and aim to embody their principles Requiring this kind of individual motivating power is a sign of a community that recognizes the value of an individual who does not mindlessly follow instructions, but rather understands the reasons behind the community structure and actively works to promote and support it. ¤2.7 T HE P OTENTIAL FOR A UTONOMY If we distance ourselves from the particular values that Alex and Ming's respective communities hold, then the frameworks of their chil dhoods begin to look quite similar, and one underlying mindset that the two share becomes apparent. We may be hesitant to grant autonomy to individuals who have been "programmed" to act and believe in a certain way by their society. This is most easily a pparent with feminist considerations a woman who submits herself to the direction of men because she has been told all her life that men are intrinsically better and more powerful than she is not autonomous, even though she has "chosen" her actions. On this understanding, someone such as Ming, who grew up with values and beliefs heavily and explicitly ingrained into him has no hope of being autonomous However, we see this same process occurring in a Western society, the difference being that for Alex, t he values and social norms impressed upon him are ones that seem to be conducive to autonomy. Had Alex had not grown up reading children's books that encouraged his individual expression, had his parents not cultivated in him a critical approach to rules and strictures, had his school not set him on the track to strive for personal success independent of whatever community he found himself in, then Alex would not have grown into an adult who values his individuality over his community identity, who believe s in the primacy of his individual will, and who endorses community


35 structure only insofar as he finds it agreeable and useful to achieving his individual ends (which themselves often include actions and ways of living that promote community harmony and su ccess). Being socialized to endorse values that promote individual over social good does not in any way make Alex less subject to social socialization than Ming. It is not the particular values that either man holds that determine whether they a) are cap able of being autonomous, and b) are actually autonomous. If we cannot determine autonomy by the presence, or lack thereof, of certain values that promote autonomy over those that don't, then what criteria ought we to hold? Understanding autonomy less in terms of particular values that an individual endorses and acts upon, and more in terms of how and why the individual chooses to endorse those values and incorporate them into her life, makes ascribing autonomy to individuals in communities whose value sy stems differ radically from a typical Western one much less problematic. Opening our minds to the possibility of autonomy outside of our own value system becomes easier if we extend the variability of autonomous expression among individuals to parallel va riability in autonomous expression among different communities. It is not difficult at all to imagine individuals who differ in their individual expression and value systems, and yet are both autonomous indeed, the point of autonomous individuals is tha t they can and do differ from one another in how they conduct their lives. It should be no great stretch at all to apply this same variability to the larger value systems of different cultures, as well. Since socialization is an inescapable aspect of bein g born to and participating in a community, our theory of autonomy must be compatible with its existence. This conclusion is shared by proponents of procedural, historical, and relational accounts of


36 autonomy. We cannot argue that only those free from so cialization have the capacity to act as autonomous beings no one would be autonomous and the idea would no longer be worth having. We must also be careful to simultaneously remain open to the possibility of autonomy in a community with a radically diffe rent value system than our own, while at the same time remaining cognizant of those social practices that do preclude autonomy. In spite of the socialization that he underwent, it seems fairly obvious that Alex lives as an autonomous agent. He greatly val ues his ability to make decisions independent of what he sees as outside influence, critically engages with his surroundings and act s in accordance with his own decisions, and enjoys a substantial freedom from restrictions or limitations on the conduct of his life from his government and from other people. On the other hand, although Ming also value s his independent decisions and critical reflection on his life, he voluntarily submits himself to a lifestyle that contains significant restrictions and limita tions on how he chooses to conduct his life. As we shall see in Chapter 3 while Oshana accepts that socialization is compatible with autonomous agency, she is unwilling to allow that the voluntary sacrifice of autonomy can be fully compatible with overal l autonomous agency. Indeed, it can be difficult to see how someone with as much rigidity to his life as Ming can hope to also live autonomously. We will address this concern in Chapter 3 but it will be helpful to kickstart that discussion by offering so me perspective on what different kinds of rigid structures might look like. What follows is an examination of the life of a Dalit in an Indian caste system a life that offers little opportunity for autonomy. ¤2.8 T O L ACK A UTONOMY


37 The caste system in India structures the members of a community very rigidly, with each individual born into a prescribed role. There are five classes that an individual might be born into, along with countless castes that function in a similar fashion. Of these five classes, four have definitive places in society and serve a valuable purpose, although these four are far from equal to one another. The fifth class, however, lies apart from the others, far apart and far below. Depending on which class an individual belongs to, he is understood to possess a certain level of purity, and interaction with members of a lower class threatens to sully that purity. A member of the fifth class, termed a Dalit, is so impure that, for members of any other caste, any contact with one is strictly forbidden. The Dalit exist so far outside the class system that they are considered less than human, undeserving of the attention or rights of even the next lowest class, the serving class The term Dalit applies both to thos e who are born to that class in an Indian society, and all foreigners. While this is an important point, for the time being we will just concentrate on the Indians who are considered Dalit. A Dalit is expressly labeled as an outcast from society and is s egregated as much as possible from the rest of the community. This includes not only spatial segregation the Dalit are not allowed to live with the rest of the community, or in any state of economic well being but also denial of participation in the p olitical process, denial of access to religious services, social segregation, and subjection to only the lowest and dirtiest (both physically dirty and conceptually impure) occupations. A member of a higher class who comes into contact with a Dalit wheth er this be merely eye contact, brief conversation, or actual physical contact must perform extensive cleansing rituals to re purify himself after the interaction. The Dalit are often


38 subjected to physical violence, not necessarily provoked, and are trea ted without any regard for their well being While the Indian government has issued sanctions against this violence and officially outlawed this form of treatment against the Dalit, these laws can go largely unenforced, especially in more rural parts of I ndia. What is most pertinent about the situation of the Dalit is not just their condition, but the mentality behind it. Dalit are believed to inherently deserve this treatment and status; this is their given "place" (or more specifically, lack of place) i n the community. Members of a caste system are born into their class and caste they have no more choice about it than they do over their height or sex and the lot of the Dalit is to be the least pure of them all. Even a Dalit might accept the life he leads, because in his eyes, this is who he was meant to be, and his personal feelings about the matter are completely beside the point, so much so that they are not even worth considering. This lack of autonomy is not quite the same as how we might view a slave as being non autonomous (although there are certainly many parallels). It is not that freedom of action is denied to a Dalit they do not have masters who they must obey, nor have they been captured from freedom elsewhere and forced into servitude Rather, their lack of autonomy is even more basic than that the Dalit simply are not of sufficient standing as human beings to participate in their community. They are fundamentally "less" than all the other members of the caste system. A Dalit is au tonomous by no one's standards, just as a slave is not. The difference lies in the capacity that each possesses. A slave can dream of freedom, can imagine a grand escape to a better place where she is free to create her own life and live by her own rules A Dalit has no such dream. T his is significant because it brings us to a


39 central idea that we can find in any conception of autonomy, despite all the cultural differences that might complicate an attempt to discuss any common threads we might pull out the idea of recognition. ¤2.9 C ONCLUSION So what is the Dalit missing that results in his inability to live autonomously? As we said above, he is not technically enslaved, and yet we would be no more comfortable granting him autonomy than we would a slave. Some other aspect of his lifestyle must, then, be responsible for his lack of autonomy. I believe that we can find the answer to this question if we turn our attention to how the Dalit is recognized and treated by the other members of the caste sy stem. The Dalit has never once been recognized as an individual with any sort of potential or valuable future, and thus his childhood and adulthood have lacked the attention from others that was responsible for Alex and Ming's development into self motiva ted, critically reflective individuals. Had the Dalit, as a child, been recognized as having the potential to become a fully participatory member of society, he would have been taught how to do so. However, the Dalit is not recognized at all, except as s omething that is not to be recognized, and thus enjoys no place in the political and social system, except as something to be excluded from it. The lack of engagement and attention from other members of the society that the Dalit receives is critical to un derstanding the lack of autonomy the Dalit possesses. Not only did the Dalit not receive the proper kind of socialization in his early years, but as an adult, he does not have the opportunity to even attempt to conduct his life in a way that he prefers, b ecause no one will recognize that he is doing so. He is denied access to that


40 possibility before he even attempts it. In the following chapter, I will pose the suggestion that the way an individual is recognized in his community is more important to the i ndividual's autonomy than how that community is structured. An individual must be recognized as being capable of and deserving of directing his own life. Without that recognition, the individual would be unable to actually carry out that direction. As w e move through that argument, we will see how Ming's position fits into the discussion, both in comparison to Alex's autonomous life, and to the Dalit's non autonomous one. Does the type of recognition that Ming receives make him eligible for an autonomou s status, or is his life too structured and too micro managed for that to be possible? What is it about Alex's life and the relationship he has with others and with his society that makes it so clear that he is autonomous? Finally, we will also consider how this discussion fits into Oshana's argument, and whether incorporating a concept of recognition into her theory of relational autonomy can remain true to her original intentions.


41 C HAPTER 3 ¤ 3.1 A N I NTRODUCTION TO R ECOGNITION In Chapter 2 we examined a series of examples of individuals from vastly different social situations. We determined that it would be fairly uncontroversial to consider Alex to be autonomous since he possesses all the internal capacities necessary and occupies a so cial position that supports his own agency. We also determined that it would be fairly uncontroversial to say that the Dalit lack s autonomy since the internal capacities were never cultivated even if they did exist. The Dalit also lives in a social envi ronment that actively works to prevent his being autonomous. We are left with our third example Ming. It is not immediately clear whether we can say Ming is autonomous or not, because while he does appear to possess the necessary internal capacities, C onfucianism imposes many restrictions on his life that someone like Alex is not subject to. Someone who does not believe Ming is autonomous might argue to me that Ming's place in his community and the nature of his community's structure are such that his possessing the proper internal capacities is not sufficient for him to actually live autonomously. This objection holds an implied claim that there is a certain way in which a community and individual ought to interact that is necessary for the autonomy of the individual. This claim does not seem unreasonable; on the contrary, it actually seems completely valid. The question becomes a matter of working through the relationship between individual and community (or, more generally, between individual and "others"). Thankfully, we already have two examples that are fairly uncontroversial regarding the individuals' autonomy status. Comparing similarities and differences between these two


42 examples will help us to identify a particular set of concepts that m ake up the conditions for being autonomous in one's community. We can then test these concepts on more challenging examples, ones where autonomy might be called into question, and from there engage those concepts with our Confucian example. The goal of th is chapter, then, is to develop an understanding of the relationship between society and autonomy through an exploration of the way in which community and individuals interact with one another, namely, the ways they see or recognize each other. Recognitio n plays a crucial role in determining autonomy because of the unique and powerful influences that others' beliefs and actions have over individuals. The judgments people (or a community or society as a body) make about an individual in turn affect how the y interact with that individual, and the manner in which an individual is treated by her community has significant consequences for the degree of autonomy she experiences. Just the fact that a community recognizes an individual in general is obviously insu fficient to grant autonomy to the individual. After all, someone could just as easily be recognized as lacking the capacity for autonomy. As such, it is not enough to merely say that an individual must be recognized by her community in order to be autono mous; nor is it enough even to say that she must be recognized in a certain way, but that certain way must be discovered, described, and applied to any variety of situations in which autonomy might come into question. Before we embark on our theory, we sho uld address an underlying question what does it mean to be recognized at all? What it is not to be recognized is fairly easy it is to be ignored. To not be ignored would be to be paid attention to and so a good


43 starting definition of what it is to b e recognized might be simply to be paid attention to. More specifically, it is to be paid attention to as a particular something I pay attention to you, and intentionally not to the bush standing next to you. To be recognized is not an incidental payin g attention; it is an intentional singling out on behalf of the recognizer, an identification and separation of what is being recognized from everything else surrounding it. A person who is recognized is recognized because she holds some set of properties that make her somehow worthy of recognition at that point in time, if not consistently. We need to make an important distinction at this point in our definition. The identification of what is socially recognized (i.e., recognized by others) is not necessarily the same as or even correlated to the identity the recognized holds for herself. It does not matter in the slightest for the process of being socially recognized if Shirley is thought to be something she does not actually identify as say, a man. You are not recognized in virtue of how you identify yourself, but rather in virtue of how others identify you, at least in the first instance of recognition. This is an important point, because the way that others recognize a person plays a crucial role in their view of their relationship to that person, and can illustrate the role they see that person as playing in their lives, whether or not that is a role the person would accept or endorse. ¤ 3.2 R ECOGNITION IN A LEX S L IFE To begin th is dissection, we return to the first example introduced in Chapter 2 that of Alex, the American businessman. In the previous chapter, we discussed how Alex was raised in accordance with certain social values pride in self sufficiency, development of critical thinking skills, love and respect for his worth as an individual, etc.


44 that contributed to his growing into an autonomous adult, fully equipped with all the competencies we would expect to accompany autonomous action. We affirmed that, even tho ugh Alex was socialized to accept and endorse these values (and did not come to them entirely originally), they were still in keeping with the necessary conditions for autonomy, and it should not be controversial to assert that Alex is, indeed, an autonomo us individual. However, is it not problematic for Alex to continue to live in such a social context? Does it matter that nearly every decision Alex makes and certainly any significant one will be rooted in terms of the various social relationships and situations in which Alex lives? No matter where or what Alex is doing, he will always find himself somehow limited, constrained, defined, identified, recognized, allowed, and/or evaluated by a vast scope of peers and institutions, all of which have some measure of influence and power over not only the choices he makes, but the thought process behind those choices. This is evident even in the simplest of tasks going to fill his car with gas at a self service pump, the owners of the station recognize Ale x as being capable of pumping his own gas, but limit his choices to the types of petroleum they choose to market, and, by offering competitive prices, influence his decision regarding where to refill. Given this situatedness, our task is now to determine w hether the imposition of limitations and structure onto individuals by either a community as a whole or by other individuals (or, perhaps most importantly, by the individual herself) are incompatible with individual autonomy. Since these influences are un avoidable even at the most trivial of levels, they cannot be wholly in opposition to autonomy, a fact that Oshana and other proponents of relational autonomy have duly noted. However, Oshana still maintains that


45 structure and influence do not impede auton omy only up to a certain, f airly strict degree. In Oshana's view anyone living in a rigid social structure 1 or with heavy imposed limitations on their freedom of action lacks any significant degree of autonomy regardless of the circumstances behind their position in that situation. This thesis bars a large percentage of the population from the possibility of autonomy, and does not, I think, take into account both the prevalence of social structure and the variety of ways structure and limitation can rela te to the individual. These relationships between social structure and the individual and between others and the individual are key to understanding that the mere existence of structure or limitation is not what opposes them to autonomy. Rather, the r elationships that govern those structures and limitations play a determining role in that process, and by this I mean that the way society or individuals recognize an individual will affect how they treat that individual, which in turn will determine wheth er the relationship between the two is one that allows for the individual's autonomy. The essential thesis here is that while influence by and conformity to social structure are unavoidable, the nature of those interactions determine whether an individual can still be autonomous not necessarily in spite of that structure, but, more precisely, in conjunction with it. In order for Alex to live autonomously, it is not enough for him to have the internal capacity to do so; the people and systems with which he interacts must also recognize that capacity in him and defer to his judgment regarding the choices he makes about how to conduct his life. There is a significant difference between a social structure that demands unreflective obedience from its members and does not 1 By rigid social structure, I mean a structure that explicitly defines and regulates the life of the individual on both a large and small scale. Certain specific ways of behaving are endorsed, while others are directly prohibited. Participation or membership in this structure requires adherence to it.


46 recognize them as agents capable of intentionally conducting themselves in a certain way and a social structure that recognizes its individuals, or certain of its individuals, as the best agents for making choices about their own lives. Alex may live in accordance with values and a social structure that he did not choose, but his society does not consider him to be a mindless drone playing follow the leader it recognizes him as the most appropriate agent to make life choices for himself. It did not always recognize him as such as a child, he was subject much more directly to the opinions and beliefs of his parents, and it was only once both his parents and his society believed him capable of forming those beliefs and opinions himself (in a responsible way) that that subjugation waned. Alex is recognized as an autonomous agent in several important ways. Legally, he is held responsible for his own actions and enjoys the right to be free from undue coercion by others. He can vote, get marrie d, draft a will that must be recognized and respected by others, donate his organs, and participate in or hold various other rights, privileges, and actions. Alex is also recognized in certain ways socially others recognize him as the appropriate person to: choose his occupation, accept or reject offers of promotion or relocation, decide whom to involve himself with romantically, choose to go for drinks after work or not, and so on. While he might ask for advice, or receive unsolicited advice from his p eers regarding decisions he makes, he retains the primary authority over those decisions, and can choose to accept or reject whatever advice he does receive. We must be careful not to suggest that the recognition Alex receives from others is the sort that labels Alex as always making the right decisions regarding his life; he can


47 be recognized as the appropriate agent for his life without also being perfect. He can make mistakes, poor choices, or ill regarded decisions and not lose his recognition unless the mistakes and poor decisions become so major and so common that something beyond a lapse in judgment or particular blind spot appears to be affecting his mental capacities. Part of being recognized as autonomous, at least in Alex's community, is being recognized as having the authority to make decisions regarding one's life path that others may disapprove of or disagree with. For example, if Alex, in the prime of his business career, were to decide to quit unexpectedly and instead take up a job tendin g bar at a nearby club, his business partners, parents, and friends might argue strenuously against the choice, but ultimately would allow it to happen. If, however, there should ever come a time when Alex starts making decisions or behaving in such a way that not only do his peers or family disapprove of his choices, but also find him to be unsuitable for making those choices at all, their lack of involvement will shift and they will take action, usually in the name of protecting Alex from himself. Therap eutic i nterventions, the Baker Act, and other such measures exist for this reason, and serve as proof that the kind of recognition I am talking about is not freely given or unconditional, nor is it permanent, once granted. An individual must consistently demonstrate that he is the most appropriate agent for directing his own life, and he must do so by consistently making choices that exhibit his willful exercising of autonomy capacities. So long as he does so, and up until he doesn't, others will recogniz e him as autonomous. What underlies this recognition is the belief by others that Alex understands enough about how to function in a given situation that his choices regarding that situation


48 will be appropriate for his place in it. As we shall see later on in this chapter, there are many situations in which an individual is not believed to understand enough about a situation, or to be the right agent for making choices in that situation, and in those instances, he lacks the authority he enjoys elsewhere. For now, however, it will be sufficient to say that overall, and especially in regard to instances concerning his own life path, Alex is recognized by society and by other people to be the most appropriate agent for conducting his life. ¤ 3.3 R ECOGNIT ION IN THE D ALIT S L IFE Recognition of this sort is distinctly lacking in our example of the Dalit. A member of a caste system is barely recognized as an individual, much less as an individual with any sort of determining power over his life, and of these participants, the Dalit is at the lowest end of the spectrum. A Dalit is given no place in a society composed entirely of places and roles; he lacks even the recognition of having an identity, of belonging anywhere except "outside" the existing social st ructure. Upper members of a caste system, the actual participants, restrict their interaction with the Dalit to the absolute minimum possible little speech, absolutely no physical contact, social and physical segregation, and so on. If a caste member, e specially one from a much higher caste, must interact with a Dalit, intensive purification rituals must follow. A Dalit has no place in community structure, is not recognized as a citizen or community member in any significant sense; he performs those fun ctions considered too dirty for actual community members, and receives nothing in return for his services. Although legal measures have been taken to afford the Dalit greater rights and recognition, those measures receive little to no attention in actual p ractice, and are,


49 especially in more rural communities, largely ineffectual. While a Dalit may retain some authority over his day to day activities he is not a slave, lives in his own dwelling in a segregated neighborhood, and so on in all significant ways, he lacks the autonomy to govern his life as he so chooses. Only certain occupations are available to him, his social interactions are severely restricted to other Dalit, he has little to no say regarding his legal status, and, perhaps most importan tly, has no chance of ever changing his position or the way his society recognizes him. His status is considered to be inborn, as much a part of him as any genetic code; he made no choice to be a Dalit, and nothing he does will ever rid him of that stain. The difference we see in the relationship between social structure and recognition will be of much greater significance when we return to the Confucian society, but in preparation for that, it bears mentioning here. Certainly, Alex's society lacks a stru cture of the rigidity that we see in either a caste system or a Confucian society, but nonetheless, a structure does exist. One of the difference s between Alex's situation and the Dalit's is that Alex can live in harmony with his social structure and is r ecognized as a participant member in it. The Dalit has no such opportunity; he exists within his structure because he has no other option; structure and recognition function only as tools of repression and never of empowerment. The point I am trying to e mphasize here is that it is not that social structure itself is inherently problematic for autonomy, 2 but that the manner in which one is recognized as a participant in that structure is what determines whether the relationship between individual and socie ty is conducive to the individual's autonomy. 2 Although, of course, there are str uctures that are designed with the intent to repress. These places, such as prisons, are designed because their members are not voluntary members and are preemptively barred from recognition as being autonomous within their context (you don't go to prison to live however you want). The structural position of the Dalit in the caste system is comparable to this: the Dalit's society is explicitly arranged to deny privileges to the Dalit.


50 ¤ 3.4 R ECOGNITION AND M INOR A UTONOMY S ACRIFICES To further clarify the kind of recognition required for autonomy it will be helpful at this point to introduce several examples of situations in which autono my might be limited or curbed due to the existence of a certain social structure or the exercising of one individual's power over another. We will see how others' recognition of the individual whose autonomy is in question affects how the individual exerc ises her autonomy, both within a certain context and also outside of it. Most importantly, we will see how recognition and autonomy limitations are always context dependent, and being recognized as lacking autonomy in a certain field or on a certain level does not preclude the possibility of autonomy in a different context or on a larger scale. The first examples I'd like to offer still occur within the context of a modern American society, and start on a very minor level. Because of the latter, they migh t at first come across as trivial examples, but it is important to demonstrate that autonomy sacrifice can happen in various shades of grey, and that the principle behind the finer grain sacrifices remains the same as the examples become more significant. By exhibiting examples in this scaled fashion, I hope to illustrate the non trivial similarities that exist between quite limited examples ( choosing to follow the speed limit or hiring a personal trainer ) and more all encompassing ones ( entering into a vo luntary slave contract or living by the strict structure of a Confucian society ) Two factors distinguish voluntary autonomy sacrifice from involuntary autonomy loss first, that the sacrifice was intentionally made by an informed subject, and second, tha t the system or individual to whom the autonomy has been sacrificed recognizes that the individual autonomously chose that sacrifice, and that the sacrifice occurs only within


51 a certain context that both parties understand and respect. For instance, we se e some very specific instances of autonomy sacrifice in examples like going to see a personal trainer, or following the speed limit. A personal trainer recognizes her client as an individual who requires her assistance to make the correct choices regardi ng personal fitness and a healthy lifestyle. The client on his own is not the best agent for making those particular decisions (even though the client otherwise leads a largely autonomous life), whether because he does not know how to make the correct dec isions, or lacks the proper motivation or determination to continue an exercise regimen on his own. Thus, within that localized position in a community the relationship between client and trainer the degree of autonomy that each individual experiences is largely dependent on how the other recognizes them (and how they recognize themselves). However, leaving that particular context, the client retains his autonomy (excepting all similar instances of minor sacrifice), and the trainer recognizes that she does not have authority over the other decisions the client makes, nor does she believe that she ought to have that authority. Her client's deference to her exists only because she is better equipped than he to direct his life in this situation alone; sh e does not presume to also instruct him on the best way to manage his finances, and so on. Speed limits present a similar case, though it shifts the discussion from the relationships between individuals to a larger understanding of how a system recognizes people in general. The individuals in a society have recognized their government as an authority figure in terms of determining the appropriate speed to travel on roads. In turn, the government recognizes that it is not appropriate for each driver to fre ely choose their own speed on public roads, for various safety reasons and the like. Thus, the government


52 institutes speed limits, to which the people choose to adhere (either because they agree with the mandate or because they fear the repercussions) Though this is hardly a case of dramatic autonomy sacrifice, it nevertheless serves as a good illustration of how sacrificing some measure of autonomy within a particular and well defined context in this instance, the freedom to drive as fast as we like does not pose a threat to our capacity to exercise autonomy in other areas. 3 As the previous two examples illustrate, recognition plays a role in autonomy whet her the individual is interacti n g with other individuals, or with the system as a whole. Incid ents regarding the system as a whole are less clearly about recognition, which makes sense because the relationship between individuals and the system is much less personal, and much less interactive. Between individuals, the effect that being recognized a certain way has on one's autonomy is fairly obvious, and evident in the manner of their interaction. For instance, if an individual recognizes another as having authority over them regarding certain decisions decisions regarding personal health, for e xample then that will be clear in how they speak to that person. The personal trainer's client will probably not spend very much time telling his trainer how he's going to work out that day, and quite a bit of time asking for her instruction. If he doe s have his own ideas about what he ought to do, he will probably voice those ideas as suggestions, and wait for her approval before acting on them. For her part, the trainer will feel comfortable giving her client direct instructions, instructions that re veal her underlying expectation of compliance. 3 Incidentally, even the act of adhering to the speed limit demands a c ertain autonomy, as suggested by the fact that a driver is held responsible for monitoring her own speed, and should she disobey the law, may not blame some external force as "making" her drive too fast (except in the most extreme of circumstances, and eve n here, she is subject to judgment; whether or not the policeman feels she made an appropriate, justified decision in speeding determines whether or not he chooses to reprimand her for it).


53 Consider the difference between a personal trainer giving instructions and her client asking permission, and an interaction between two individuals who each view the other as autonomous in a particular context Two friends who go to the gym together every morning before work will discuss their workout as they are walking in to the building. One wants to lift weights, while his friend thinks that their time would be better spent on cardio. The friends will ea ch lobby for their respective ideas, but in the end, if they cannot agree, then they will simply choose to work out in different areas of the gym that day. At no point will one order the other to acquiesce to his suggestion, or expect obedience from his f riend their relationship is not one that includes the subjugation of one friend to another, and they freely recognize each other as having control and decision making power in his own life. 4 As we will shortly see with the case of an enlisted soldier, t he way an individual is recognized in more dramatic instances of autonomy sacrifice can have even greater impact on speech and other patterns of behavior. ¤ 3.5 M ORE S IGNIFICANT A UTONOMY S ACRIFICE Instances of autonomy sacrifice are not always so simple or narrow in scope as following the speed limit or listening to one's personal trainer. However, even in more complex cases, the sacrifice of authority still remain s a matter of context and degree, where the loss of authority is constrained to the recognition the individual receives within that particular context Recognition has two parts, here: first, that those holding authority over an individual in a certain context recognize that their author ity is derived from their 4 Even here, we see nuances. Friends do not always treat each oth er with such fine displays of mutual affection. The gym rat might look down upon his less active friend and consider himself to be the obvious superior when it comes to making the right exercise decisions, and he will use that status to emphasize his posi tion over his friend's. Alternately, the timid friend who is nervous about exercising in public might look to his more experienced partner for guidance.


54 relationship to that individual in that context and does not extend beyond those limits into other areas of the individual's life (often including the decision to initiate, renew, or terminate the authority sacrificing relationsh ip) ; and second, that those who participate in the individual's life outside of the given context recognize that outside that context, the individual retains or regains the authority he sacrificed within it. An enlisted soldier, when on duty, is subject al most entirely to both strict military protocol and to the orders of his commanding officers (who, in turn, participate in their own various chains of command). He refers to those of higher rank as "Sir," or "Ma'am," dresses in uniform with his rank clea rly displayed and shapes his behaviors to conform to protocol. The speech patterns we saw earlier between the personal trainer and her client are here magnified and institutionalized. Speech is strictly regulated by rank relationship a colonel can ad dress a major by name or even as "soldier," but the major would never take such liberties in addressing the colonel O fficers issue commands with the expectation of immediate obedience, and have systems in place to reprimand those who disobey orders. A l ower ranking soldier might offer a suggestion or idea but only if she has first been granted permission. Nearly every aspect of interactions in a military setting is regulated by the recognition of others' authority, or their lack of it. Indeed, especia lly if he is a low ranking soldier, it is neither expected nor desirable for him to act of his own accord or take initiative. Military operations depend upon a chain of command that relies on the autonomy of only a very few, and the capacity to follow ord ers by the rest. 5 It is important that an enlisted soldier not be 5 This is not to say that an enlisted soldier does not or should not be capable of autonomous action quite the opposite. Officers and commanders need to be able to rely on their soldiers to act ably and successfully carry out orders. The more a soldier demonstrates that she is able to do this, the more likely it is that she will be given assignments th at require greater amounts of independent thinking and action.


55 recognized as the most appropriate agent for making decisions while in the field; an individual soldier will not have a clear understanding of the overall mission and events that are happen ing simultaneously, and his actions are merely a part of an overall plan. In order for that plan to be carried out, the soldier cannot choose to act as he sees best, for risk of endangering some other aspect of the mission, or failing to complete a crucia l task (think of the potentially disastrous results if a soldier who has been ordered to act as back up for his patrol decides to investigate another area he has suspicions about instead. He has now abandoned the larger group that expected him to be in a certain place, and even if his intuition was correct, he has placed the larger mission at risk.). A commanding officer recognizes each of his soldiers as being under his authority as individuals who are capable of and responsible for obeying his orders. In this context, then, it is completely fair to say that an enlisted soldier on duty lacks a significant degree of autonomy. However, beyond the soldier's identity and role as a soldier, the commanding officer does not hold sway. We see this in a couple of arenas. First, a soldier's commander recognizes the soldier's autonomy in choosing to enlist in the first place, or to reenlist after his term is served. The soldier makes these decisions not as an enlisted soldier, but as an adult human being choosi ng whether or not to be an enlisted soldier. As such, in order for the commanding officer to recognize a soldier as being such, he must also recognize that the soldier chose to be such, and has the choice to continue to be so, or to leave at the end of hi s service Second, when a soldier is off duty, or performing acts that do not directly relate to or impact his life as a soldier, his commanding officer no longer holds authority over him, and recognizes him as being the most appropriate agent to make cho ices regarding his life in those contexts (for instance,


56 a soldier's commander has no say in who the soldier decides to marry). This second point brings us to the other important side of our discussion about recognition. Imagine a soldier who follows orde rs perfectly, who never presumes to assert authority over his superiors, and is quite comfortable with the choice he made to sacrifice decision making power in his life for the sake of his career (and whatever significance that holds for him). However, wh en this soldier returns home to his wife and children, he adopts an authoritarian role in which he assumes control over not only decisions regarding his life, but also that of his family. His wife, children, and friends, though they are all well aware tha t the soldier regularly follows orders and obeys commands while on duty, recognize that, off duty, he reassumes the autonomy he temporarily sacrificed. None of them presume to give him orders, but instead respect his decisions regarding his life, and in t he case of his wife and children, recognize the soldier as now being the one in the authority position. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it demonstrates in yet another way how recognition and autonomy sacrifice are completely conditional, and, if treated properly, will not carry over into areas of life in which they do not belong. It is one thing for the soldier's non military friends to look at the soldier and think to themselves, he takes orders all the time; that must mean he is incapa ble of thinking for himself we should probably give him orders, too. This ought not to happen, and presumably does not (at least not with regularity we are assuming the soldier demonstrates all the internal capacities necessary for autonomy). Rather, the soldier's friends will understand that while he is on duty, it is necessary and appropriate for the soldier to follow orders, for the various reasons listed above. However, just because the soldier follows orders in that


57 particular context, that is n ot an indication of his inability to govern his own life and decisions in instances in which doing so is appropriate. Thus, during the rest of the soldier's life, his friends will treat him not as an inferior incapable or underserving of governing his own life, but as an autonomous agent who can and does make his own decisions. ¤ 3.6 O SHANA AND A UTONOMY S ACRIFICE As we move to some more extreme cases of autonomy sacrifice, it will be beneficial at this point to return to Oshana's treatment of relationa l autonomy, and to discuss in greater detail some of the ways in which this project differs from hers. Up until this point, it is reasonable to assume that Oshana would not have too much trouble with the examples that I have raised (although she might arg ue that the enlisted soldier does not have the opportunity for significant autonomy for the period in which he is enlisted more on this later). She would agree that autonomy is contextual and will vary in degree as a person's environment changes and shi fts to include different people and different social relations. Indeed, the main point of Oshana's argument is that hierarchical and historical conceptions of autonomy lack due attention to social situation, and as such would mistakenly grant autonomy to an individual whose social situation actually denies it to her. This is, I think, an important argument to make. However, as evidenced by the case studies she chooses to engage, Oshana makes her argument largely in terms of those social situations in whic h the nature of the situati ons denies a person autonomy; she devalues the strength and importance of inner mental states to an individual's autonomy. Oshana posits such an externalist understanding of autonomy that she overlooks an


58 extremely important fac tor in social relations the inner mental states of the people with whom the autonomous individual is interacting. Here, I think, is the crucial difference between my and Oshana's theses, and I would like to spend some time on two related aspects of Osha na's argument: her attention to only those social situations that limit autonomy (and lack of attention to those social factors that not only allow, but enable autonomy), and her lack of attention to the importance of the attitudes of those who exercise au thority over an individual. We will first discuss the difference between local and global autonomy, a concept Oshana introduces to augment her argument. In her first chapter, Oshana distinguishes between localized ("a person's acts or desires or choices c onsidered individually, and pertaining to the manner in which a person conducts herself in a particular situation") 6 and global ("the property of a person having de facto power and authority over choices and actions significant to the direction of her life ") 7 autonomy. She goes on to note that she will be concentrating primarily on global autonomy, and, in a later chapter, reinforces that global autonomy does not mean one must be autonomous all the time : "Autonomy is typically a matter of varying scope and varying intensity." 8 It is with this in mind that she is willing to allow a degree of autonomy for the monk (who is in a similar position to our enlisted soldier, although the monk probably has less variety in the types of relationships he regularly eng ages in) noting that "it is possible for a person to relinquish his autonomy without losing ultimate authority over his condition." However, she goes on to say that the degree to which an individual's chosen life allows for the individual to have contro l on a "practical and daily basis" is 6 Oshana, 2 7 Oshana, 2 8 Oshana, 36


59 still largely important for determining the individual's autonomy. Oshana's distinction between local and global autonomy, between what significantly affects the overall autonomous status of a person and what is merel y context dependent, is quite hazy, and this throws some of her argument into confusion. Does Oshana distinguish between local and global in a temporal sense the sacrifice of autonomy for a brief period of time need not affect the possession of autonomy f or "most of the time?" O r does she mean it more synchronically even if an individual sacrifices her autonomy for only a short period of time, if it is a great enough sacrifice, it still counts as a loss of global autonomy, in a way that an extended period of minor sacrifices does not? There are a variety of perspe ctives we could take on this argument, but any one in particular does not seem capable of addressing the nuances that occur in the multitude of contexts through which individuals move. I think Oshana would be better off if she adhered more strongly to he r original position that lacking autonomy in a certain context is not fatal for global autonomy. However, because Oshana's argument intends to demonstrate how external conditions determine autonomy, and not on how the involved parties approach those condi tions, she does not acknowledge the true importance of considering autonomy in the various contexts that make up a life nor does she address the scope and nuance of what these contexts involve The first two case studies Oshana raises are those of the vol untary slave and the "Angel in the House," or the woman who intentionally submits herself to her family's needs and desires. Both of these individuals fulfill completely the internal conditions for autonomy as laid out by a structural or procedural autono mist; they have fully


60 functioning mental capacities, have reflectively and critically endorsed their actions, have not been coerced by any outside forces, and freely chose the lifestyles they now have. Nonetheless, because the lifestyles they chose depriv e them of any significant capacity for self government and subject them to the desires and whims of others without concern for their independent beliefs, Oshana argues that they are still not autonomous. 9 Oshana's argument here is that, even if one has all the necessary capacities for autonomy, and has freely and willfully chosen the position they occupy, if that position denies them th e ability to do certain things then the individual is not autonomous. 10 For Oshana, being content in one's chosen position is not sufficient for one's autonomy. Consider a real world example of voluntary slavery. In the BDSM community, it is not uncommon to see a slave contract entered into by two (or more) people, in whi ch one person, usually by way of a ceremony and/or som e sort of written document, submits himself to the mastery of the other. A slave contract can include varying levels of detail some slaves maintain control over their own finances, others tur n their earnings over to their M aster or give up working altog ether. Contracts can include details regarding speech and other forms of behavior that somehow delineate the relationship of slave and M aster, or require that a slave wear a symbol of his subservience (such as a collar, or even a tattoo). The main crux o f the contract, and indeed the largest tenet of any aspect of a BDSM lifestyle, is the continued, unwavering presence of consent on behalf of the 9 Oshana, 53 60 10 Oshana specifies these certain things as having economic and political independence, choosing living accommodations, determining the frequency and nature of sexual relations, and other actions that are consistent with a typically Western sense of what is important in life. However, we can assume that she would extend her argument to those cultures whose own set of values serves the same function.


61 individual who subordinates himself to another's authority. 11 As soon as the individual withdraws that consent any contract, written, verbal, or otherwise, is immediately terminated, and the individual's personal authority is returned to him. This seems like a case in which Oshana's view entails that the enslaved individual (who we here assume to have all the au tonomy capacities specified by Oshana's example) lacks autonomy, since, as she says, he lacks mastery over his life and control over his daily activities, but this argumen t does not take account of the M aster's side of the relationship. Let's consider how someone in the authority position of such a relationship would view or recognize the individual who has willingly subordinated himself. By honoring the presence of the contract (whether that be an extensive written contract, or simply a verbal establishme nt of a safeword that is used to terminate a localized agreement), the authority role recognizes that the subordinated individual holds the power to terminate the agreement at any point and resume governance of his life. 12 In these instances, the subordina ted individual has decided to subject himself to another's authority, but retains the power to terminate that agreement at any time a power that the authority role is required to respect. The importance of how the M aster recognizes the slave is very impo rtant for this context, because it demon strates that not only does the M aster treat the slave's choice to be just that a choice made by an autonomous adult but also raises some interesting 11 The consent of the dominant partner is also required, of course, but it is usually the subordinate who is at the greatest risk of his partner not respecting his withdrawal of consent. 12 A note on safewords: A safeword provides an interesting framework for something like a M aster/slave relationship. Because safewords are usually used to either terminate or ease up on a particular, current activity in a BDSM relationship, they represent the power that an individual, even a slave, constantly possesses over the relationship, even if using a safeword for a certain activity does not in any way terminate or endanger t he larger contract. As we saw in our discussion of the difference between localized and global autonomy, the nuances involved in such a distinction can do a poor job of accurately portraying the various types of relationships and autonomy sacrifices indiv iduals engage in.


62 thoughts about the difference between localized and global auto nomy. Withi n the context of the Master/ slave relationship, and other individuals who are aware of and respect the conditions of that relationship, the slave lacks autonomy. However, legally, the slave is still an autonomous adult, and can be tried as suc h in court. I f the slave has an occupation, then his role there is different as well, along with all other aspects of life that the slave engages in that might no t have anything to do with his M aster (in many instances, these aspects will be quite few, and the most important feature here is probably the legal status of the slave). In this sense, the slave is still "globally" autonomou s (as everyone but the slave's M aster and those who know of and respect their contract considers the slave to be an autonomo us adult and would treat him as such), but that raises the question of how exactly we ought to define "global," and if it is even the best way to characterize the difference between significant and insignificant autonomy. There is a si gnificant difference between a M aster/s lave relationship in which the M aster recognizes the slave as an autonomous individual who consciously made the choice to enter into the rela tionship, and one in which the M aster recognizes the slave as nothing but a slave, as having nei ther the right nor capacity for independent living, and being merely a thing to be ordered about and used. If we were talking about the latter case, even if the slave had still freely chosen that position, I would join Oshana in denying that the slave is autonomous because the M aster does not recognize the slave as having an identity and power outside of that context. Thus, because of the lack of due recognition on the M aster's behalf, the slave's autonomy outside of the context of the M aster/slave relat ionship has been jeop ardized. However, because the M aster in a BDSM slave contract does recognize that in her slave, the slave retains a greater power


63 over his life (namely, the power to terminate the agreement, as well as the capacity to be recognized di fferently by others just as the soldier above is), and can stil l be considered autonomous in other contexts ¤ 3.7 O SHANA S C ASE S TUDIES AND A UTONOMY S ACRIFICE As I mentioned in Chapter 1, Oshana presents several case studies that address her concerns with autonomy sacrifice in certain types of social relationships. I will now return to those case studies. The power transference that occurs between those who vo luntarily choose to give up the authority over their lives in a very complete way and those who take on the responsibility of another person can be understood as another matter of degree and context, just as the rest of my examples have proved to be. Thes e instances are on the most extreme end of the spectrum, and are thus much more difficult to comprehend it simply doesn't make sense to say that someone who has given up all control over her life can still be autonomous. In order to understand such a de cision, it is crucial that we remain aware of the role recognition plays in determining autonomy. The voluntary slave is recognized by the voluntary M aster as someone who has chosen this life for himself, was fully responsible in making that choice, and i s fully responsible and participatory in taking it back if he should so choose. Were the slave recognized in any other way as someone who could not responsibly make that choice, as someone who did not have the ability to remove consent or withdraw from the agreement then his autonomy is threatened, because should he ever choose to withdraw, his M aster would not allow it, and he would become an involuntary slave. Oshana's third case study, that of the Taliban Woman, is an excellent example of how the la ck of proper recognition by others does deny autonomy. Oshana describes the


64 Taliban Woman as a woman who has "embraced the role of subservience and the abdication of independence that [the Talibanic regime] demands, out of reverence, a sense of purpose, a nd an earnest belief in the sanctity of this role as espoused in certain passages of the Qu'ran." 13 The Taliban Woman did choose her circumstances, but her religion and her culture do not recognize the validity of her choice, only the "propriety" of her po sition. In other words, even if the Taliban Woman did not want to be treated and recognized the way she is, she would be nevertheless, because that is the role and mindset that others believe she ought to have. These attitudes are similar to the approach higher members of a caste system take when dealing with the Dalit, and are indicative of the ways in which recognition can function to suppress or deny autonomy, just as much as it can function to enable it in other circumstances. Oshana's second case stu dy of the Angel in the House differs in interesting ways from both the voluntary slave and the Taliban Woman. The Angel is a woman who is so constituted that she never had a mind or wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wi shes of others." 14 She is "sober and mature [and we have no reason] to believe that she has failed to evaluate her motivations to whatever extent seems appropriate." 15 The Angel lacks the explicit contract of the slave to structure the way the other memb ers of the house treat her, but there is not necessarily evidence that her family would insist on her behavior even if she wished it otherwise. You can imagine fairly easily two different situations; one in which the Angel's family respects her decision t o live submissively and to care for them, but would have respected equally a decision to work independently and give greater direction; and another where 13 Oshana, 60 14 Virginia Woolf, taken from Oshana, 57 58 15 Oshana, 58


65 her family believes that the Angel's place is beneath their authority. In the latter, her family will continue to make decisions for her and require her service, even if she expresses desires otherwise. In the first, however, the family not only accepts the Angel's choices, but complies with them as well. They see her as having made an informed decision and recognize that she is the most appropriate person to have made that decision for herself. Traditional gender roles suggest that the second version is a more likely configuration of the family, but this does not necessarily preclude the possibility o f the first. I think much of Oshana's concern about the Angel's situation stems from her awareness of the social enforcement of traditional gender roles ; she is not only concerned with autonomy, but also with how social constructions can function to influe nce women to take on a more submissive role because this is their "place." To avoid this complication, let us change the example around what if the Angel in the House were actually a woman who occupies this role in a house composed of only female housem ates? Rather than fulfilling a traditional familial role, the Angel has chosen this position despite living with a group of people who, according to the traditional view, should all be doing the same thing. These other women, however, have no desire to o ccupy this role, and accept the Angel's desire to, not because they think it is somehow more her "place" to do so than it is theirs, but because they respect her desire to do so. The existence of restrictive or oppressive social norms circled around gender are certainly valid and pertinent concerns to address, but I believe it is a mistake to conflate undue influence from those norms with a legitimate desire for submission. Desiring to be in a state of submission, even regarding the major direction of one' s life, is not indicative


66 of some underlying confusion or blockage that has misguided the individual into believing he does not want or deserve authority, nor does it necessitate that others then believe you to be incapable or undeserving of autonomy. This leads me to the other point I wish to make regarding Oshana's argument. The case studies she gives are all strong examples of the ways in which social situations or social structure work to deny an individual autonomy. While Oshana is certainly not tryi ng to say that social structure and social relationships are intrinsically antithetical to autonomy, the examples she chooses to highlight are ones in which social structure and relationships are active components in restricting or denying autonomy. It is helpful to consider the ways in which social structure and relationships at the very least do not impede autonomy in any significant way, and more importantly, the ways in which they encourage or facilitate autonomy. The previous examples, and the ones t o come, indicate ways in which structure and relationships do not necessarily impede autonomy on a universal scale (although they very well might do so in local contexts), and while the return to a Confucian society will form the major part of my argument for the ways structure can facilitate autonomy, the following example might serve as a brief introduction to that side as well. ¤ 3.8 P ARENTS AND C HILDREN The relationship between a child and her parents (taken here in terms of familiar present day li beral Western practice; child parent relationships of course differ with culture) is especially interesting as regards autonomy because of its unique fluidity. The amount of authority parents exercise over their child is expected to change as the child gr ows, and the way each recognizes the other changes dramatically with time and


67 experience. When the child is very young, she is entirely dependent on her parents in all significant ways, even as she attempts to gain small measures of control over her life learning to walk, speak, and so on. Parents will recognize their child as having her own wants, desires, and feelings, as well as the capacity to act on them, but do not see her as being the most appropriate agent to determine the course of her own life because she lacks the developmental capacity to make informed, reflective decisions, or to critically engage with her world. As such, they take it upon themselves to do this for her, while, hopefully, also taking into account the child's wishes, should t hat be appropriate. As the child grows, two factors affect her increased capability to act autonomously first, her own development improves and expands her mental faculties, and second, her parents, teachers, and other adults in her life begin to teach h er the skills and values associated with their conception of what self government looks like. Her parents especially now take on a rather tricky role, attempting to balance the direction their child still needs with the learning opportunities that are nec essary for the child to eventually be able to live on her own. For instance, they may allow their high schooler to get a part time job and some independent cash flow, but they still have a say in what the job is and how much time the child devotes to the job, as well as retaining veto power over it if they decide she cannot handle the responsibility maturely. The structured relationship between parent and child is a good example of how structure can actually work to positively influence and enable autonomy By allowing their child to exercise and grow her autonomy within a fluid, changing structure, her parents provide a safe space for the child to practice and develop her skills without fear of making a major mistake. In addition, the social system in wh ich the child grows up


68 ensures that she develops the right kind of capacities and values, so that as she reaches adulthood, she has confidence that she can function as a fully participatory member of her community. She understands (at least generally) the way things work with regard to social relationships and social (and legal) structure, and can conduct herself with confidence that others will recognize her in a way appropriate to how she behaves and wishes to be seen. Without the guidelines of that str ucture, she would probably feel lost as to the best way to conduct herself and interact with others (think of the discomfort and fear that often accompanies not knowing local customs when travelling abroad). If the child, by this point a young adult, leave s for college, her autonomy status changes dramatically. Whatever measure of autonomy she experienced as a high schooler is trivial compared to the freedoms she now enjoys. No longer directly answerable to her parents, she can choose her own academic pat h, structure her time how she chooses, eat what and when she wants to, stay over at a friend's without asking permission first, and do a whole host of other activities that used to be governed by her parents. And yet, she still does not find herself to b e completely independent. Financially (excepting, perhaps, a part time job), she still depends on her parents for support. Before making a major decision, such as travelling or studying abroad, she will consult her parents, as well as call them with a va riety of other questions or dilemmas. And, when she returns home over breaks, many of the rules that do not exist at college fall back into place. This is because, despite recognizing her newfound independence while at school, her parents still recognize her as their child, and thus subject to their authority, just as she recognizes them as the two people who will continue to have authority over her for some


69 time yet. At this point, that authority might become frustrating for the child, who feels as thou gh she has reached the stage in her development where she is a fully functional adult, and as though she deserves to be treated with the recognition that entails. Her parents, however, do not feel that way, and as they retain control over much of their ch ild's life, especially financially, the child is forced to recognize that. The parent child relationship is an excellent example of how the type of recognition that exists between individuals has a significant effect on the level of autonomy that either of those individuals experiences. Consider the difference between authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive parenting styles (three different styles laid out by psychologist Diana Baumrind in 1966). 16 An authoritarian parent does not recognize t heir child as having any significant say (either through right, ability, or both) in how her life is conducted. The parent makes all of the decisions and input from the child is discouraged, if not outright banned. A permissive parent, on the other hand believes that she ought to stay out of her child's life, and allows the child to make the majority of her own decisions, sometimes to the point of not offering any significant authority role and serving merely in an advisory position. And, between the t wo, is the authoritative parent, who recognizes their child as needing her direction and guidance, but also recognizes the child as having a mind and will of her own, as well as the importance of learning to use that mind and will properly. The authoritat ive parent, exemplified by what I have been discussing above, actively works to help her child grow into an autonomous agent, while at the same time recognizing that the child is not quite ready for the entirety of that responsibility. 16 Grobman, K. H.. "Diana Baumrind & Parenting Styles." Developmental N.p., 2003. Web. 5 Mar 2012. .


70 ¤ 3.9 A UTONOMY I N A C ONFUCIAN S OCIETY Hopefully, I have demonstrated in this chapter that many of Oshana's concerns regarding autonomy and social structure can be more specifically addressed if we include in our discussion an examination of the role recognition plays in f ormatting the interplay between autonomy and social structure for many examples of structured social relations. It is not the structure itself that is inherently in opposition to autonomy, even if that structure is of a limiting nature. The way an indivi dual is recognized when operating in that structure makes all the difference between autonomously entering into a situation that limits autonomy locally, but does not affect them globally, and autonomously entering into a situation that then restricts auto nomy not only in that localized situation, but also globally, or at least in other, otherwise unrelated, situations. Even in cases where the "localized context" is so broad as to seem global, conditions on the context still remain, and the subordinated in dividual, because she retains influence over those conditions, can still be understood as an autonomous agent who has chosen, for whatever variety of reasons, that it is appropriate to sacrifice that autonomy to someone else. With all of this in mind, it i s time to finally return to our original question at the beginning of this chapter despite Ming's possessing all of the internal capacities necessary for autonomy, does the social structure of a Confucian society nevertheless permanently limit or even pr eclude the possibility of his living autonomously? At this point, I imagine my answer will be fairly easy to predict, but as Ming's situation is drastically different even from my most extreme examples above, it still bears discussion. Unlike the previou s examples, Ming has not voluntarily entered a structured system as an already autonomous agent, but rather was born into that system, and given little to no


71 opportunity to grow or live outside of it. In Ming's example, therefore, we are attempting to sho w not only that it is possible to be autonomous within a highly structured system one that explicitly attempts to govern daily life in a significant way but also that it is possible to become autonomous, having spent one's entire life in that system. I n a Confucian society, the autonomous individual is one who can rise above the inconsequence of everyday life and, through a life of dedicated scholarship and self cultivation, create himself as a gentleman/noble man. The process of becoming a noble man e ntails a rigid adherence to a preexisting social and academic structure, which includes conforming to a hierarchy and often repressing or quelling individual desires in favor of living and functioning whole heartedly within the structure. Because of the h eavy external constraints placed upon an individual who is on the path of self cultivation, it is easy to see why a philosopher with a typical Western understanding of autonomy would deny the Confucian the possibility of autonomy. However, if we modify our understanding of the necessary conditions for autonomy to include the context within which the Confucian scholar lives and is recognized, we see that it is in fact possible that he lives autonomously. We can also see that while the Confucian scholar may not have quite the freedom that an American individual experiences, the way he exercises his autonomy is not by striving for difference or attempting to live independently, but rather by working to create himself as a participant in a system. Being an auto nomous participant in a system and merely a member in it are very different things, of course. Therefore, for the Confucian scholar, autonomy is only possible if, first, an individual is recognized as being, from the start, capable of setting


72 himself on t he path of self cultivation in order to become a noble man. A common assumption in a Confucian society is that a man must possess an inherent nature that sets him apart from the "common" man, a capacity for virtue that leads him beyond the day to day expe rience of survival and living. The common people are thought to have no hope of bettering themselves beyond their basic peasant status, and are not expected to engage in critical thought or self cultivation not because they are not worthy or are meant t o be punished, but simply because they lack the ability to. One who is recognized as having the inherent nature necessary to become a noble man and who put s himself on that path then enter s a training process, because being a noble man involves much more t han possessing an inborn tendency toward virtue. To become a noble man, an individual must learn to live according to ritual but this does not mean rote memorization of rules and a dutiful enactment of those rules. He must take ritual into his heart, s o to speak, learn to think critically about what he learns, and only once he truly understands and has endorsed his (ritualized) actions as being the best method of conduct can he be considered a noble man. This is a process that takes many years, and can not be fulfilled simply by obeying an elder or submitting to a mandate these actions must be critically and reflectively endorsed in order to be considered valid by others. The aim of the noble man is to advise and minister to rulers and to commoners ali ke (though it's more often than not rulers). Others must recognize him as such before he is capable of achieving his goals if others believe him to be false or corrupt, then he cannot minister to them, because they will not take him seriously. Recognit ion is thus crucial for the noble man he must be recognized not only as someone who knows what


73 proper conduct is and how to act and how to believe, etc., but also as someone who, through the process of self cultivation and whole hearted endorsement of wh at he has learned, speaks truly to them from a properly developed mind and spirit. Thus, in order for the noble man to be recognized as such, it is important that he has proven that he is committed to constant self betterment, and will not bow to corrupt o r "wrong" pressure from others. He must approach life critically, and be wary of falling under the undue influence of those who wish to sway him a certain way. To be a noble man is to be a man with a certain fortitude, a commitment to his own principles. This last phrase can be hard to swallow because the noble man's own principles are the principles that all noble men ought to hold. Nevertheless, because the noble man must critically endorse these principles before truly adopting them to his life, it d oes not matter that what they are has already been prescribed to him, no more than it matters that Alex grew up believing his own set of principles and values that he was then required to endo rse before adopting as his own For a Confucian individual, we m ight consider his available form of autonomy as being able to understand, work with, and influence an existing social structure, instead of merely conform to its mandates. This is different than rebelling against a structure, as the noble man is not tryin g to disassemble what he has studied, but rather bolster it and support it. This is not an act or mindset that can be controlled by another, and indeed, the noble man is recognized by his community as being the source of authority on the proper structure. His role is not to control or change the structure itself, but rather to enforce it, in his mind and through his actions. A Confucian noble man thus ends his training in a position of significant recognized influence but not necessarily of power. He is


74 recognized as incredibly valuable, and treated with the utmost respect, because his role is to embody the ideal for which everyone else is striving. To return to some of Oshana's terminology, we can understand the Confucian scholar as another example of an individual having sacrificed a great deal of local autonomy whilst still retaining their global autonomy in a sense. While he remains just as subject to the rituals and values of his culture as any of the "common people," the combination of the way he recognizes the social structure and the way others recognize him distinguish him from the rest, granting him a certain large scale autonomy that transcends most particularized situations (but is nonetheless still dependent on the context of his culture and his individual path through that culture). A common man follows the "ritual" principles guiding hospitality, but he does so because he has been instructed to do so. The noble man treats his guests a certain way because he believes and understands the reasons for believing that it is the right way to treat guests. And if a man wishes to educate himself and learn more about the teachings of Confucius regarding leading a good life, he will ask the noble man, whose wisdom and influence he recognizes as b eing appropriate to instruct him. As we have shown in all the previous examples, intentionality and mental states have a great effect on an individual's autonomy in ways that Oshana does not address. In this case, because of his critical engagement with and subsequent whole hearted endorsement of his social structure, Ming is not an automaton following a set of rules, but an intentional agent consciously choosing not only to act in accordance with Confucian teaching, but also to believe in them as being t he best way to live. Moreover, Ming's educated and enlightened engagement with Confucian practices and beliefs elevate him


75 in the eyes of others beyond the ranks of the commoners. They recognize in him the ability not only to understand and direct his ow n life in the appropriate path, but also to help them do the same. To be sure, a Confucian lacks an extraordinary amount of what we might consider autonomy the ability to disagree with predetermined rituals, freedom of radical dissent from peers, and so on. We might be able to see this as the extent to which one is capable of being autonomous in a culture that deemphasizes the individual a communal society might place sanctions on the external actions of its individuals, and yet still endorse and encou rage the individual development of mind and character, creating a society made up not of mindless automatons, but thinking, active beings who fully participate in their community, as a community. In terms of authority and the consistent availability of a wide array of options, members of a Confucian society are decidedly lacking, a point which is not insignificant. ¤ 3.10 C ONCLUSION Even if we cannot say that Ming has quite the same degree of autonomy as Alex experiences, especially on a day to day bas is, this chapter has still done several important things regarding how we ought to treat discussions of autonomy. First, it demonstrated the prevalence of autonomy sacrifice even in a modern Western society, and showed that these sacrifices are not incons istent with the notion of autonomous agency. Second, it discussed how the sacrifice of authority either voluntary or compulsory due to preexisting social structure, is not itself automatically antithetical to autonomy. Rather, we must understand how the relationship between the individual who is doing the sacrificing and that which has authority over her plays a role in determining whether a


76 localized or context specific sacrifice will carry affect the agent's overall autonomy This chapter also address es some of the concerns Oshana raises regarding her case studies, and suggests that some of those concerns might be alleviated if Oshana also takes into account the attitudes of those individuals or systems that hold power over another individual. Finally we returned to Ming, in an attempt to show how significant autonomous agency can be possible even in a social structure so rigid that it regulates the proper way to drink tea.


77 C ONCLUDING T HOUGHTS T HE B ASIC A RGUMENT IN R EVIEW This thesis aimed at accomplishing a few things. Primarily, it has sought to develop and expand upon some aspects of Oshana's account of relational autonomy that remain undeveloped in Personal Autonomy in Society. Ultimately, I do not believe that nearly any of what I hav e written is irrevocably at odds with Oshana's account, but rather that I have refined and more rigorously explored some of her major themes in some interesting and important ways. The product is an account of relational autonomy that more fully examines the complexity inherent in the social relationships that individuals engage in on every level, and then integrates an understanding of that complexity into a more complete theory of how autonomy functions in those relationships. It is important to understa nd that social relationships are not just composed of people doing things around, to, with, and in relation to each other. A relationship is not just the external action of what is going on; it is also the complex, nuanced, and infinitely variable approac hes that each person involved will bring to each situation. Intent and attitude matter, because intent and attitude affect action, and action affects others. If relational autonomy is going to truly encompass what it means to be socially situated and to be autonomous in a social setting, it cannot limit itself to a blanket examination of the external factors of various scenarios; it must also take into account the multitudinous ways in which two individuals can interact with each other. Recognition is vi tal for any discussion of autonomy that wishes to posit human beings as social creatures who have the potential to exercise power over one another. I have attempted to demonstrate the importance of incorporating a conception of


78 recognition into our theory of autonomy by giving a series of examples that illustrate how different types of recognition can affect the degree of autonomy an individual possesses in any given situation. I reaffirmed others' stance that possessing the right internal capacities for a utonomy is not sufficient for autonomous agency, and rejected the idea that adding a purely external consideration of agent's social setting would be entirely sufficient either. Instead, we must approach the autonomy question from both standpoints, and at tempt to understand that it is not only the internal functionings of the individual in question that we must evaluate, but also the attitudes adopted by those with whom the individual interacts. S OME L OOSE E NDS In reference to my examples, there is a signi ficant point that up until this point has not been paid its due attention. Chapter 2 develops three major examples that I use as the starting point for discussing how social relationships and recognition affect the degree of an individual's autonomy. The reader will notice that all three of my examples are males, and that Alex and Ming each occupy a very privileged position in their respective communities. Each grew up in relatively affluent families, each was afforded the best possible education, and ea ch now lives in a position of high social and economic standing. For a thesis that is attempting to show how autonomy can be present even in seemingly limiting social structures, this hardly seems like a fair choice of examples. Surely, the reader might p rotest, a common peasant in a Confucian society has no hope of achieving the high level of personal cultivation that Ming reached do you mean to say that he too is autonomous? And those concerned with how traditional gender roles limit the potential for autonomy in females will argue that a woman probably would not


79 receive the same kind of recognition that Alex does, but might instead be encouraged not to pursue her career, but to settle down and have some children (or, if not something so drastic, would be implicitly understood to lack quite the extent of capacity for autonomy that a male would possess). These objections are all entirely valid, but do not actually pose a threat to my framing of the discussion. Since it would be impossible to cover all t he types of social positions that an individual might occupy in each of the societies that I outlined, I chose instead to focus in greater detail on merely one position (or, even more precisely, one configuration of one position) in each society. This all owed me the opportunity to more fully develop my ideas about recognition and social situation in reference to a single anchor point, so to speak. As such, I chose examples that would show off how recognition and social situation could work to the most ben eficial advantage for autonomous agency. This is not meant in any way to suggest that recognition always functions in this way for all individuals. In fact, the result is very much to the contrary. Those who occupy social positions that are considered somehow "lesser" than others whether because they afford fewer opportunities for the individual, because others view that position or identity as being less capable or less potentially powerful than some other position, or any other reason are undoubte dly going to be recognized differently than those who occupy more privileged positions. Involved in this different type of recognition are different judgments about the potential for these individual to be autonomous, and it quite easily follows that if a n individual is recognized as being less capable of autonomy than an individual in a different position, then that individual will


80 be in a poorer position to exercise her autonomy. What we see here is that the structure an individual lives in and the attit udes of others in that structure toward the individual are not independent from one another. It is quite conceivable that the ways others recognize or fail to recognize an individual form because of their understanding of the individual's place in a struc ture (and not because of their understanding of the particular individual), just as we can imagine how structures might be partly constituted by a conglomeration of attitudes on the part of particular individuals toward another group of particular individu als. Think of the Dalit, whose entire being is structured by others' attitudes toward him. Or consider how attitudes toward women contribute to the persistence of a structure that does not offer them the same range of opportunities and expression as it d oes men. Our discussion would benefit from further research in to how structure and attitudes affect and create each other, and how their relationship can affect the potential for individuals' autonomous agency. T HE P LACE OF A UTONOMY IN A G OOD L IFE I woul d like to make one final point, a point that addresses autonomy from a perspective that, up until now, I have been careful to avoid in my discussion. For Oshana, autonomy functions as a very high priority value, something to strive to enable and protect, something that a community should work to facilitate in its individuals. We see this in a few places in Personal Autonomy in Society in Chapter 3, Oshana is reluctant to admit that any truly autonomous individual would ever desire to be in a state of no nautonomy, and alludes to her belief that a choice of subservience is not "admirable;" 1 in Chapter 4, she notes that an autonomous person "is not inclined to impose 1 Oshana, 57, 59


81 impediments to autonomy upon herself;" 2 and Chapter 6 is devoted to establishing why we oug ht to value autonomy. I agree that, in a typical understanding of a modern Western social structure, autonomy functions as one the highest values in a set of values focused on personal liberty and freedom. However, I believe that to assert either that al l individuals desire and strive for autonomy or that autonomy ought to be placed as a prominent priority does not do justice to the variety of social relationships and structures that exist, or have the potential to exist. First, this assertion implies tha t the desire to submit or to relinquish authority is an unnatural desire, born out of some set of coercive or not ideal circumstances. I do not think this is always necessarily the case, and I think that it is potentially dangerous and limiting to suggest that in order for an individual to be properly functioning, he must desire autonomy. Returning to my example of the slave in a BDSM contract from Chapter 3, while it is certainly likely that some of those who choose to be slaves do so because external ci rcumstances have impressed upon them that this is their proper place, not because they chose to free from undue influence from others, I also find it completely feasible that a slave might choose to relinquish a large portion of the authority over his life because being in a state of submission gives him a feeling of comfort and security, reduces undue anxiety, and is generally preferable to him. Second, I invite the reader to consider a possible society where the individual is of a drastically lower priori ty than the prosperity of the community. We see this in one possible manifestation with the Confucian example; here is a society that values the prosperity and harmony of the community over the particular desires and direction of the 2 Oshana, 75


82 individual, but still has room for the appreciation of autonomous agency in at least some of its members (and it is not too outlandish to imagine a slightly different structure that allows for the potential for autonomous agency in all of its members). A second possibility is a concept of a society in which the individuals who make up that society all firmly believe that their own individual desires and control over their own lives are lesser than the interests of their community and autonomous agency is not valued at all W e can imagine a community where in the individual does not even conceive of himself wholly as an individual, but rather as a piece in a larger whole, whose aims and desires align with the aims and desires of that whole (and moreover, the individual conceive s of other individuals in the community as occupying that same role) These different possibilities open up our understanding to the idea of a completely coherent structure and value system that does not include autonomy in its ranks (or at least does not place it very high in those ranks), and in doing so suggests that autonomy need not be necessarily included in the potential for prosperity. Again, this reflection on autonomy's worth as a value ranked a mong other values does not affect the weight of my larger discussion, nor does the larger discussion depend upon autonomy being construed either as a central value or not. I merely wished to offer as a concluding thought that autonomy need not necessarily be understood as a central value and that in doing so, we run the risk of potentially alienating the entirely valid desires and life choices of an entire swath of individuals.


83 B IBLIOGRAPHY de Bary, William. The Trouble with Confucianism Camb ridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991. Christman, John. The Politics of Persons New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Frankfurt, Harry. "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person." Journal of Philosophy 68.1 (1971). Friedman, Marilyn. Autonomy, Gender, Politics New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003. Grobman, K. H.. "Diana Baumrind & Parenting Styles." Developmental N.p., 2003. Web. 5 Mar 2012. . Oshana, Marina. Personal Autonomy in Society Burlingotn, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2006 Waley, Arthur. Sacred Writings: Confucianism: The Analects of Confucius USA: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992. Yao, Xinzhong. An introduction to Confucianism Cambri dge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.