Towards a Relational Conceptualization of the Right to Personal Autonomy
44 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016 Last revised: 17 May 2017
Date Written: May 8, 2017
This paper lays the foundation for a relational conceptualization of the right to personal autonomy, where personal autonomy is perceived as a fluid and dynamic competency, which evolves and flourishes through one’s web of relationships. On its face, the more common, liberal conception of personal autonomy seems more fitting for the articulation of the right to personal autonomy, as most Western legal systems are based on liberal grounds. Indeed, several liberal legal scholars have addressed the right to personal autonomy and the state’s duty to promote it. Nonetheless, I show that the liberal conception of autonomy is limited in its ability to serve usefully as a basis for the right to personal autonomy, for several reasons. Most notably, as feminist and communitarian critics have highlighted, the liberal conception of personal autonomy is based on an inaccurate perception of persons and autonomy. As shown in this paper, the relational conception of autonomy provides a more complex and accurate account of personal autonomy, and thus can serve as a better basis for developing the legal right to personal autonomy. Throughout the paper, I analyze the conditions needed for the development of personal autonomy and define the right to personal autonomy, as well as the role of the state in promoting it. Besides ensuring the availability of a satisfactory variety of options (a condition that has been developed by liberal scholars and embraced by relational ones), the state’s responsibility also includes ensuring the availability of constructive relationships through which one’s personal autonomy can thrive.
Keywords: personal autonomy, relational, relationships, rights, persons, personhood, state
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