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ABSTRACT

This paper addresses three questions raised by recent literature on the concept of ‘autonomy’. (I) Should the value of autonomy more properly be seen as a moral constraint or as a goal of action? (2) Is autonomy either possible or desirable, given the ways in which human beings are located within a situation and a community? (3) If autonomy is a desirable goal, is it a universal value or merely one appropriate to modern liberal-democratic societies? Use is made of the distinction between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ versions of the concept of ‘autonomy’, which helps to provide an answer to the first question. It is also important, however, to recognise the continuity between the weak and strong versions, and this recognition helps to supply answers to the second and third questions.