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Heteronomy refers to action that is influenced by a force outside the individual, in other words the state or condition of being ruled, governed, or under the sway of another, as in a military occupation.

Immanuel Kant, drawing on Jean-Jacques Rousseau,[1] considered such an action nonmoral.[2][3]

It is the counter/opposite of autonomy.

Philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis contrasted heteronomy with autonomy by noting that while all societies create their own institutions (laws, traditions and behaviors), autonomous societies are those in which their members are aware of this fact, and explicitly self-institute (αυτο-νομούνται). In contrast, the members of heteronomous societies (hetero = others) attribute their imaginaries to some extra-social authority (e.g., God, the state, ancestors, historical necessity, etc.).[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rousseau, J.J. ([2010] 1754-1762). The Social Contract, A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, and A Discourse on Political Economy. New York: Classic Books International.
  2. ^ Glossary of Kant's Technical Terms by Stephen Palmquist
  3. ^ Andrews., Reath (2006). Agency and autonomy in Kant's moral theory. Oxford University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0199288823. OCLC 912403176.
  4. ^ Castoriadis, Cornelius (1986-10-01). "the nature and value of equality translated by david a. curtis". Philosophy & Social Criticism. 11 (4): 373–390. doi:10.1177/019145378601100404. ISSN 0191-4537.

Further reading[edit]