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Essay/Term paper: The right of autonomy

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Philosophy

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The Right of Autonomy

Political philosophy is the philosophy of the state. A state is a
group of people who have supreme authority within a given territory or over a
certain population, according to Wolf. Authority then, is the right to command
and the right to be obeyed which is different from power. Power in Wolff's terms,
is the "ability to compel compliance." Moral autonomy is "a submission to laws
which one has made for oneself." Wolf believes that there is a problem between
authority and autonomy. Autonomy overrides the importance of authority. He
also thinks that classical democracy fails to be a solution to this problem.
An autonomous person is not subject to the will of another. This is
thought to be the primary obligation of man. In political philosophy, autonomy
is a refusal to be ruled, and authority of the state is the right to rule, there
is a conflict. If a man fulfills his obligation to autonomy, then he will go
against the claim by the state to have authority over him. Wolf states, "He
will deny that he has a duty to obey the laws of the state simply because they
are the laws." This is the major conflict with political authority. Some
philosophers believe that a solution to this problem is the concept of
This argument says that if men rule themselves then they would be both
the law givers and followers, combining autonomy with authority. "His
obligation to submit to the laws stems not from the divine right of the monarch,
nor from the hereditary authority of a noble class, but from the fact that he
himself is the source of the laws which govern him."
Wolf doesn't think that it fully solves the problem between authority
and autonomy. A unanimous direct democracy is the closest to resolving the
conflict, yet in only exists in theory. Representative democracy seems to solve
the problems of unanimous direct democracy, but it too, has its problems. Its
problems lie in the fact that it is incredibly difficult for everyone to be
truly represented. If one is not, then their autonomy is sacrificed. Another
possible democratic solution is majoritarian democracy. The problem with this
comes with those people who are in the minority. The minority voice is limiting
their autonomy because they are obeying something that they do not will. Here
Wolf again shows democracy fails to solve the problem between authority and
In conclusion, Wolf believes that there is a problem with the concept of
political authority. It conflicts with man's obligation to autonomy. If a man
fulfills his obligation to autonomy, then he will reject the authority of the
state, resulting in philosophical anarchy. Democracy seemed to be a solution to
this problem, but Wolf quickly showed how it failed. Democracy took away the
autonomy of the minority. He states, "If democracy is to make good its title as
the only morally legitimate form of politics, then it must solve the problem of
the heteronomous minority."


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