Master of Arts (MA)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Document Type



Written in the burgeoning tradition of Aristotelian liberalism, my thesis seeks to enrich this tradition by developing a liberal theory of autonomy based on a broadly Aristotelian foundation. Chapter One summarizes and critiques the major contemporary theories of autonomy developed by Kant and analytic philosophers. Chapter Two explicates the Aristotelian conception of autonomy, drawing on recent work by Fred Miller and Roderick Long. Aristotle is chided for not being liberal enough and so Chapter Three develops an Aristotelian-liberal theory of autonomy based in part on recent work by Douglas Rasmussen, Douglas Den Uyl and Roderick Long. Global and local individual autonomy are distinguished, with global autonomy being the exercise of one's rational faculty (or self-direction) and local autonomy relating to particular desires, preferences, actions, and so forth. Local autonomy is further conceived as having three fundamental dimensions: political, social, and personal. Political autonomy equates with the traditional classical liberal/libertarian concept of liberty, and is normatively protected by the right to liberty. Social autonomy involves freedom from social influences other than the threat or use of physical force that lead a person to deviate from his telos. Personal autonomy involves internal freedom from deviant desires, severe addiction to drugs, and so forth that lead a person to deviate from his telos. Personal and social autonomy cannot be promoted at the systematic expense of political autonomy. Aristotelian liberalism, and an Aristotelian-liberal theory of autonomy, promise to transcend the liberal/communitarian debate. An Aristotelian-liberal theory of autonomy avoids the Enlightenment pitfalls that plague Kantian and analytic theories of autonomy.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Ian Crystal