Welfare, Autonomy, and the Autonomy Fallacy


Abstract: In this article, I subject the claim that autonomous choice is an intrinsic welfare benefit to critical scrutiny. My argument begins by discussing perhaps the most influential argument in favor of the intrinsic value of autonomy: the argument from deference. In response, I hold that this argument displays what I call the ‘Autonomy Fallacy’: the argument from deference has no power to support the intrinsic value of autonomy in comparison to the important evaluative significance of bare self-direction (autonomous or not) or what I call ‘self-direction tout court’. I defend the claim that the Autonomy Fallacy really is a fallacy, and show that my examination of the argument from deference has wider reverberations. Once we clearly distinguish between autonomy and self-direction tout court, it becomes much less plausible to say that autonomy of itself is an intrinsic welfare benefit.