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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 25, 2009

Gender, Diversity, and Difference

Elizabeth Sperry
Pages 165-178

Autonomy Luck
Relational Autonomy, Moral Luck, and Social Oppression

I bring together three philosophical accounts to argue that differential social shaping puts agents’ autonomy status outside their complete control, thanks to specific forms of good and bad luck generated by agents’ membership in socially privileged and socially oppressed groups. Oppression generates psychological harms and external damages, all of which can impede autonomy. Relational Autonomy analyses suggest that agents become autonomous only through relationships with others and further enact that autonomy in social contexts. Moral Luck theorists examine the apparent paradoxes involved in our being held responsible for states and results outside our control; I consider the import of constitutive luck, situational luck, and resultant luck. We have limited control—hence, luck—with reference to beneficial and harmful ways in which relationships and social institutions affect our autonomy.

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