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Autonomy (Ancient Greek: αὐτονομία autonomia from αὐτόνομος autonomos from αὐτο- auto- "self" and νόμος nomos, "law", hence when combined understood to mean "one who gives oneself one's own law") is a concept found in moral, political, and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision. In moral and political philosophy, autonomy is often used as the basis for determining moral responsibility and accountability for one's actions. In medicine, respect for the autonomy of patients is an important goal, though it can conflict with a competing ethical principle, namely beneficence. Autonomy is also used to refer to the self-government of the people.
In the subfield of sociology called the sociology of knowledge, controversy over the boundaries of autonomy stopped at the concept of relative autonomy, until a typology of autonomy was created and developed within science and technology studies. According to it, the contemporary form of science's existing autonomy is the reflexive autonomy: actors and structures within the scientific field are able to translate or to reflect diverse themes presented by social and political fields, as well as influence them regarding the thematic choices on research projects.
In the United States government, autonomy refers to one's own self-governance. One former example of an autonomous jurisdiction into the United States government belong to the Philippine Islands; the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 provided the framework for the creation of an autonomous government providing the Filipino people (Filipinos) broader domestic autonomy, though it reserved certain privileges to the United States to protect its sovereign rights and interests.
Indigenous people such as the Kuna people have used autonomous principles as their original governance. Other indigenous groups such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation have taken on this structure in recent years as a response to globalization.
Some communities in Spain, like Basque, have also asserted their autonomy through their ancient culture and history.
Autonomy is a key concept that has a broad impact on different fields of philosophy.
In moral philosophy, autonomy refers to subjecting oneself to objective moral law. Kant (1724–1804) argued that morality presupposes this autonomy in moral agents, since moral requirements are expressed in categorical imperatives. An imperative is categorical if it issues a valid command independent of personal desires or interests that would provide a reason for obeying the command. It is hypothetical if the validity of its command, if the reason why one can be expected to obey it, is the fact that one desires or is interested in something further that obedience to the command would entail. "Don't speed on the freeway if you don't want to be stopped by the police" is a hypothetical imperative. "It is wrong to break the law, so don't speed on the freeway" is a categorical imperative. The hypothetical command not to speed on the freeway is not valid for you if you do not care whether you are stopped by the police. The categorical command is valid for you either way. Autonomous moral agents can be expected to obey the command of a categorical imperative even if they lack a personal desire or interest in doing so. It remains an open question whether they will, however.
The Kantian concept of autonomy is often misconstrued, leaving out the important point about the autonomous agent's self-subjection to the moral law. It is thought that autonomy is fully explained as the ability to obey a categorical command independently of a personal desire or interest in doing so — or worse, that autonomy is "obeying" a categorical command independently of a natural desire or interest; and that heteronomy, its opposite, is acting instead on personal motives of the kind referenced in hypothetical imperatives.
In his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant applied the concept of autonomy also to define the concept of personhood and human dignity. Autonomy, along with rationality, are seen by Kant as the two criteria for a meaningful life. Kant would consider a life lived without these not worth living; it would be a life of value equal to that of a plant or insect. According to Kant autonomy is part of the reason that we hold others morally accountable for their actions. Human actions are morally praise or blameworthy in virtue of our autonomy. Non- autonomous beings such as plants or animals are not blameworthy due to their actions being non-autonomous. Kant’s position on crime and punishment is influenced by his views on autonomy. Brainwashing or drugging criminals into being law-abiding citizens would be immoral as it would not be respecting their autonomy. Rehabilitation must be sought in a way that respects their autonomy and dignity as human beings.
Philosopher Iain King has developed an 'Autonomy Principle', which he defines as "Let people choose for themselves, unless we know their interests better than they can." King argues it is not enough to know someone else's interests better than the person; autonomy should only be infringed if a person is unable to know their own interests on a particular matter. Nietzsche wrote about autonomy telling about moral fight 
Autonomy according to Piaget
Piaget studied the cognitive development of children by analyzing them during their games and through interviews, establishing (among other principles) that the children moral maturation process occurs in two phases, the first of heteronomy and the second of autonomy:
- Heteronomous reasoning:
Rules are objective and unchanging. They must be literal, because the authority ordering it, and do not fit exceptions or discussions. The base of the rule is the superior authority (parents, adults, the State), that it should not give reason for the rules imposed or fulfilled them in any case.
- Autonomous reasoning:
Rules are the product of an agreement and, therefore, are modifiable. They can be subject to interpretation and fit exceptions and objections. The base of the rule is own acceptance, and its meaning has to be explained. Sanctions must be proportionate to the absence, assuming that sometimes offenses can go unpunished, so that collective punishment is unacceptable if it is not the guilty. The circumstances may not punish a guilty.
Autonomy according to Kohlberg
Lawrence Kohlberg continues the studies of Piaget, this time to pose moral dilemmas to different adult and ordering the answers. His studies collected information from different latitudes to eliminate the cultural variability, and focused on the moral reasoning, and not so much in the behavior or its consequences. In this way, Kohlberg established three stages of morality, each of which is subdivided into two levels. Are read in progressive sense, that is, higher level, greater autonomy.
- Level 1 or preconventional : standards are met or not depending on the
- Stage 1: characterized by egocentrism. The rule is obey to avoid punishment or to obtain a prize.
- Stage 2: moral individualistic and instrumental. There is an exchange of interests but always under the point of view of the convenience.
- Level 2 or conventional: rules are obey according to the established order.
- Stage 3: moral in accordance with the social role. The rule is obey to obtain the approval of the primary group, well defined by the near affective relationships.
- Stage 4: moral in accordance with a specific system, or the need of a social system. Laws and order are prioritized.
- Level 3 or postconventional: Moral behavior is governed by rational judgement, derived from a conscious reflection on the recognition of the value of the individual inside a conventionally established society.
- Stage 5: There is a perspective of a just society, established in basics universal values.
- Stage 6: The rule is accomplished when there is respect to the universals values and if they are not disobey.
In the polity of the Orthodox Church, the term "autonomous" describes a type of church body. A church that is autonomous has its highest-ranking bishop, such as an archbishop or metropolitan, appointed by the patriarch of the mother church from which it was granted its autonomy, but is self-governing in all other respects.
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In a medical context, respect for a patient's personal autonomy is considered one of many fundamental ethical principles in medicine. Autonomy can be defined as the ability of the person to make his or her own decisions. This faith in autonomy is the central premise of the concept of informed consent and shared decision making. This idea, while considered essential to today's practice of medicine, was developed in the last 50 years. According to Beauchamp and Childress[who?] (in Principles of Biomedical Ethics), the Nuremberg trials detailed accounts of horrifyingly exploitative medical "experiments" which violated the subjects' physical integrity and personal autonomy. These incidences prompted calls for safeguards in medical research.
However, autonomy does not only apply in a research context. Users of the health care system have the right to be treated with respect for their autonomy, instead of being dominated by the power of the physician. Through the therapeutic relationship, a thoughtful dialogue between the client and the physician may lead to better outcomes for the client, as he or she is more of a participant in decision-making.
The seven elements of informed consent (as defined by Beauchamp) include threshold elements (competence and voluntariness), information elements (disclosure, recommendation, and understanding) and consent elements (decision and authorization). Some philosophers such as Harry Frankfurt consider Beauchamp and Childress criteria insufficient. They claim that an action can only be considered autonomous if it involves the exercise of the capacity to form higher-order values about desires when acting intentionally. What this means is that patients may understand their situation and choices but would not be autonomous unless the patient is able to form value judgements about their reasons for choosing treatment options they would not be acting autonomously.
There are many different definitions of autonomy, many of which place the individual in a social context. See also: relational autonomy, which suggests that a person is defined through their relationships with others, and "supported autonomy" which suggests that in specific circumstances it may be necessary to temporarily compromise the autonomy of the person in the short term in order to preserve their autonomy in the long-term. Other definitions of the autonomy imagine the person as a contained and self-sufficient being whose rights should not be compromised under any circumstance.
In certain unique circumstances government may have the right to temporarily override the right to bodily integrity in order to preserve the life and well-being of the person. Such action can be described using the principle of "supported autonomy", a concept that was developed to describe unique situations in mental health (examples include the forced feeding of a person dying from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, or the temporary treatment of a person living with a psychotic disorder with antipsychotic medication). While controversial, the principle of supported autonomy aligns with the role of government to protect the life and liberty of its citizens. Terrence F. Ackerman has highlighted problems with these situations, he claims that by undertaking this course of action physician or governments run the risk of misinterpreting a conflict of values as a constraining effect of illness on a patient’s autonomy.
Despite large scale commitment to promoting patient autonomy, public mistrust of medicine in developed countries has remained. Onora O‘neill has ascribed this lack of trust to medical institutions and professionals introducing measures that benefit themselves, not the patient. O’neil claims that this focus on autonomy promotion has been at the expense of issues like distribution of healthcare resources and public health.
International human rights law
The Yogyakarta Principles, a document with no binding effect in international human rights law, contend that "self-determination" used as meaning of autonomy on one's own matters including informed consent or sexual and reproductive rights, is integral for one's self-defined or gender identity and refused any medical procedures as a requirement for legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender. If eventually accepted by the international community in a treaty, this would make these ideas human rights in the law. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also defines autonomy as principles of rights of a person with disability including "the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons".
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Autonomy or Autonomous behavior is a contentious term in reference to unmanned vehicles due to the poor understanding of whether something acting without outside commands is doing so through its own ability to make decisions or through a method of decision making pre-programmed into it. It is a quality which is rather abstract in nature and rather difficult to measure. The word is used only in an analogical sense at this point, and the analogical application carries very little of the primary content, which refers to moral choices of rational beings.
An example of semi-autonomous vehicles is unmanned spacecraft. Autonomy is an increasing feature of unmanned vehicles with two objectives
- Mandatory for new functions:
- e.g. several spacecraft in formation flight adjust their relative positions so that interferometric measurements with wide basis can be performed
- Cost reduction:
- e.g. failure detection and recovery by spacecraft system without ground station involvement reduces Up-/Downlink usage and reduces operational costs on ground.
- See Robotics:
An Autonomous Space Craft might make certain decisions for itself based on imagery observation and a pre-programmed algorithm that will determine the only possible logical outcome and then perform that task without having to ask controllers NAND NOR AND types of parameters. Autonomy in Space does not relate to the socio-political definitions, here we are talking about a device that can make basic or convoluted decisions based on LOGIC (in an electronic usage) - see X37b Military Space Plane for an example
To have true Autonomy however a device (or entity) would need to have a longer leash being able to complete complex missions without human intra direction. Such a system would say further automate the other elements of the total process making the whole of the "system" larger by including more devices that multicommunicate with each other without involving ground based technicians or communications. (the military might not want to send possibly interceptable signals to and from said same)
For example: If they automated the ground based tracking and control sending and or included additional satellites and/or space planes OR other devices (autonomous air and seacraft) the X37b Missions could someday become totally Autonomous.
- Basically: Send it on a mission and recover it when it lands.
- Obviously Autonomy here too has its authority hierarchy whereby command override
is in effect. If the ground controllers want to they can take control of the space craft at any time. A typical mission though will be preprogrammed and perform as directed and land.. OR perform a task WHILE and/or UNTIL (in a software sense) a condition is met (say a signal sent from the ground) IF/THEN Land the Un-Manned SpaceCraft without further direction from the ground. The systems so happen to interact but that is not a necessary condition for autonomy. As each device becomes more and more autonomous the total network becomes more and more intelligent and at the same time secure
- In computing, an autonomous peripheral is one that can be used with the computer turned off
- Within self-determination theory in psychology, autonomy refers to 'autonomy support versus control', "hypothesizing that autonomy-supportive social contexts tend to facilitate self-determined motivation, healthy development, and optimal functioning."
- In mathematical analysis, an ordinary differential equation is said to be autonomous if it is time-independent.
- In linguistics, an autonomous language is one which is independent of other languages, for example has a standard, grammar books, dictionaries or literature etc.
- In robotics, "autonomy means independence of control. This characterization implies that autonomy is a property of the relation between two agents, in the case of robotics, of the relations between the designer and the autonomous robot. Self-sufficiency, situatedness, learning or development, and evolution increase an agent’s degree of autonomy.", according to Rolf Pfeifer.
- In spaceflight, autonomy can also refer to manned missions that are operating without control by ground controllers.
- In economics, autonomous consumption is consumption expenditure when income levels are zero, making spending autonomous to income.
- In politics, autonomous territories are States wishing to retain territorial integrity in opposition to ethnic or indigenous demands for self-determination or independence (sovereignty).
- In anti-establishment activism, an autonomous space is another name for a non-governmental social center or free space (for community interaction).
- In social psychology, autonomy is a personality trait characterized by a focus on personal achievement independence, and a preference for solitude, often labeled as an opposite of sociotropy.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Autonomy.|
- List of autonomous areas by country
- Cornelius Castoriadis
- Direct democracy
- Equality of autonomy
- Flat organization
- Takis Fotopoulos
- Home rule
- Self-determination theory
- Self-governing colony
- Sui iuris
- Teaching for social justice
- Viable system model
- Workplace democracy
- BOURDIEU, 2001 (MARANHÃO, 2005; 2006; 2007; SOBRAL & MARANHÃO, 2008
- Philippine Autonomy Act (Jones Law)
- Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2012. Spain. Steven L. Denver (ed.), Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures, and Contemporary Issues, Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: M .E. Sharpe, pp. 674–675.
- Autonomy in Moral and Political Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
- Shafer-Landau, Russ. "The fundamentals of ethics." (2010). Pp161
- Shafer-Landau, Russ. "The fundamentals of ethics." (2010). Pp163
- Page 100 of How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time, Iain King, Continuum, 2008, ISBN 978-1847-063-472.
- Chapter 17, 'Letting People Choose for Themselves', of How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time, Iain King, Continuum, 2008, ISBN 978-1847-063-472.
- Informed Consent : Legal Theory and Clinical Practice: Legal Theory and ... - Schools of Law and Medicine Jessica W. Berg Assistant Professor of Law and Bioethics Case Western Reserve University, Paul S. Appelbaum A. F. Zeleznik Distinguished Professor and Chair University of Massachusetts, Medical School and Director of the Center for Mental Health Services Research Charles W. Lidz Research Professor of Psychiatry University of Massachusetts, Center for Bioethics and Health Law University of Pittsburgh Lisa S. Parker Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Education - Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
- Mappes Thomas, A., and David DeGrazia. "Biomedical Ethics." (2006). Pp54-55
- Mappes Thomas, A., and David DeGrazia. "Biomedical Ethics." (2006). pp62
- O'neill, Onora. Autonomy and trust in bioethics. Cambridge University Press, 2002. Pp3
- The Yogyakarta Principles, Principle 3, The Right to Recognition before the Law
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 3, (a)
- The dictionary definition of autonomy at Wiktionary