Spring 2016

Continental Philosophy and the Critique of Autonomy

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-361


Rafeeq Hasan (Section 01)


In ordinary usage, an individual is autonomous if she makes up her own mind about how to lead her life. In a more specialized usage developed by Immanuel Kant, autonomy refers to the idea that an individual governs herself through her own capacity for reason, the very same capacity which accounts for her moral duties to others. In both the ordinary and Kantian sense, autonomy is an attractive ideal. After all, it makes the individual, rather than anyone else, the guide to her own life. Yet much Continental philosophy after Kant criticizes this ideal. After briefly orienting ourselves to the Kantian understanding through a reading of selections from his moral writings, we take up the charges that the ideal of autonomy is: (1) alienating, in that it blinds us to important ways in which we are shaped by other people; (2) empty, in that without historical context it can tell us nothing about how we should act; (3) contingent, in that it represents a value that arose through concrete power struggles; and (4) patriarchal, in that it is a product of gender-based domination that denies the importance of other values. Along the way, we consider alternative ways of thinking about ethics and the self. Readings will be from Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Nietzsche, and de Beauvoir.

Requisite: One course in Philosophy or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hasan.

If Overenrolled: Preference to majors, then by class and to those who attend first class.


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016