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Title: A will of one's own: autonomy, desire and reason
Author: Boxer, Karin Elizabeth
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2001
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The purpose of this thesis is to provide an account of what the relationship between an agent and her will (conceived in terms of her effective desire) must be if she is to be considered autonomous with respect to her actions. I argue that an agent's desires are only related to her in the pertinent sense if she has them because she values their objects, believing those objects to have features giving her reason to d~sire or pursue them. Implicit in this conception of autonomy is the requirement that the agent perform an action because, of the actions available, it is the one she views herself as having most reason to perform. Moreover, the good must be seen in objective terms. This account of autonomy appears to rule out the possibility of weak-willed action as standardly conceived. On the standard conception, not only does the weak-willed agent act intentionally despite the knowledge that his action violates his own better judgement, he also acts freely. I argue that the standard conception is one we should reject. Weak-willed action ought not to be considered free action despite the fact that the desire motivating the weak-willed agent is resistible. Resistibility is not a sufficient condition of free action. Towards the end of the thesis, I raise the question of how one ought to view the relationship between autonomous action and moral responsibility. I argue that if moral responsibility requires the fulfilment of some sort of ultimate responsibility condition, then autonomy as here conceived is not sufficient for moral responsibility. I go on to question whether there is such a condition. I argue that although intuitively plausible, much of this plausibility may stem from conflating moral responsibility with causal responsibility, and that if we are to resolve the issue, then we must restructure the debate.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available