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  • Hina Khosa

Relational Autonomy


“Relational autonomy” is the name that has been given to feminist reconceptualization of the

notion of autonomy. The term “relational” here could be simply used to deny that autonomy requires self-sufficiency. Whether relationships of care and interdependence are valuable and morally significant (Mackenzie & Stoljar, 2000), thenceforth any theory of autonomy must be

“relational” in the sense that it must acknowledge that autonomy is compatible with the agent standing in and valuing significant family and other social relationships. “Relational”

could also deny the metaphysical notion of atomistic personhood, emphasizing instead the idea that agents are socially and historically embedded, not metaphysically isolated, and are, moreover shaped by factors such as race and class. Relational theories may be classified as either

i.(Internalist)

ii.(Externalist)


Internalists argue that autonomy is achieved when an agent undergoes, or has the capacity to undergo, an internal intellectual process of reflecting on her motivations, beliefs, and values, and then revising her preferences in the light of such reflection. This process is said to be“content-neutral” because the outcomes of the process of critical reflection, whatever their content, will be autonomous.


On the other hand, Externalists

accounts investigate the effects of external “relational”factors on agents’ autonomy.

Supposing that an agent is subject to severely constraining external conditions such as slavery. Such external conditions are incompatible with autonomy because autonomy is a temporally extended, “global” condition of agents in which they have “de facto power and authority over choices and actions significant to the direction of [their lives]”

(Oshana, 1998, p.2). Severely constraining external conditions remove the de facto power required for autonomy. For the sake of clarification, externalists believe that the internal psychological states of given agents count towards autonomy; but, they also believe that the external relations‘ a person stands in’ matter as well.


Assuming that a general understanding of relational autonomy is established. We proceed towards analyzing the case using Internalist (Meyers, 2002; Christman, 2009) and Externalist(Oshana, 1998; Johnston, 2017) theories with an aim to highlight that neither of the theories are adequate for the said case. An effort is made to justify the claim as to why these theorists do not seem to adequately analyze the presented case.


If you are interested in reading the full case study please follow the link below:

This paper I published @academia.edu




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