Res Publica

, 15:321 | Cite as

Relational Autonomy and Paternalistic Interventions

  • Jules Holroyd


Relational conceptions of autonomy attempt to take into account the social aspects of autonomous agency. Those views that incorporate not merely causally, but constitutively necessary relational conditions, incorporate a condition that has the form:

(RelAgency) A necessary condition for autonomous agency is that the agent stands in social relations S.

I argue that any account that incorporates such a condition (irrespective of how the relations, S, are spelt out) cannot play one of autonomy’s key normative roles: identifying those agents who ought to be protected from (hard) paternalistic intervention. I argue, against objections from Oshana, that there are good reasons for maintaining the notion of autonomy in this role, and thus that such relational conceptions should not be accepted. This rejection goes beyond that from John Christman, which holds only for those relational conditions which are value-laden.


Autonomy Relational conditions Paternalism Marina Oshana John Christman 



This paper has benefited from generous feedback from Jenny Saul and Jimmy Lenman, as well as from audiences at The Joint Sessions in Aberdeen, 2008, and a SWIP-UK conference in Nottingham, 2007. I am also grateful for the comments from anonymous referees for this journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Churchill CollegeCambridgeUK

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