Independence as Relational Freedom

Women Philosophers on Autonomy, Sandrine Berges and Alberto Siani (eds), Routledge, 2018, pp. 94-112

King's College London Law School Research Paper No. 19-10

23 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2018 Last revised: 29 Apr 2019

See all articles by Alan Coffee

Alan Coffee

King's College London - The Dickson Poon School of Law; King's College London

Date Written: June 15, 2018

Abstract

In spite of its everyday connotations, the term independence as republicans understand it is not a celebration of individualism or self-reliance but embodies an acknowledgement of the importance of personal and social relationships in people’s lives. It reflects our connectedness rather than separateness and is in this regard a relational ideal. Properly understood, independence is a useful concept in addressing a fundamental problem in social philosophy that has preoccupied theorists of relational autonomy, namely how to reconcile the idea of individual human agency with the inevitable and necessary influence of other people, both directly and indirectly. I derive my account from the work of Mary Wollstonecraft and Catharine Macaulay, whose contributions have remained largely overlooked by current republican theorists.

I have three purposes in this chapter. First, I set out the relational character of independence. Secondly, I outline a republican approach to the problem of structural social threats to agency. Finally, I hope to establish the basis for a fruitful dialogue between republicans and relational autonomy theorists on the requirements and dynamics of individual agency and freedom in oppressive social situations. I identify three distinctive features of the internal logic of freedom as independence that give it a relational character: it always locates the person within a community; there is a mediating role played by the notion of arbitrariness in connecting individual and collective perspectives; a causal relationship exists linking each person’s freedom as independence such that that the dependence of one class of persons jeopardizes the independence of the whole community.

Keywords: Relational Autonomy, Independence, Freedom, Non-Domination, Mary Wollstonecraft, Feminism, History of Philosophy

Suggested Citation

Coffee, Alan, Independence as Relational Freedom (June 15, 2018). Women Philosophers on Autonomy, Sandrine Berges and Alberto Siani (eds), Routledge, 2018, pp. 94-112, King's College London Law School Research Paper No. 19-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3197023 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3197023

Alan Coffee (Contact Author)

King's College London - The Dickson Poon School of Law ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
Strand
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.alancoffee.com

King's College London ( email )

Strand
London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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