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Abstract

According to a familiar criticism, liberal pluralism is undermined by the special value which liberals give to autonomy. This special value is then undermined by the very exercise of autonomy in practical judgement, since rational agents ought to give priority to values they have judged to be worthy, not to autonomy. This criticism presupposes an over-theoretical view of practical judgement which overlooks our need to integrate our diverse practical judgements into our lives. I explain this integration through a conception of autonomy as the ability of a plurality to act in common. Drawing on Rawls' account of overlapping consensus, I argue that this view fits not only cases of collective activity, but also cases of individuals making life-structuring commitments. Understanding the essential connection between autonomy and plurality reveals what is mistaken about the familiar criticism of liberalism.