Autonomy and the Demands of Love


Author: Mark Piper, James Madison University, United States of America
Published: October 2015

Citation: Piper, M. (2015). Autonomy and the Demands of Love. IAFOR Journal of Ethics, Religion & Philosophy, 2(1).


J. David Velleman has argued that what it makes sense to care about out of love for someone is the unimpeded realisation of her autonomy. Although Velleman refers to both Kantian and perfectionist notions of autonomy, a close look at his argument shows that the form of autonomy that he employs actually amounts instead to personal autonomy. I argue that there are in fact no value constraints on the objects of autonomous choice on this account of autonomy. The upshot of this claim is that a person may exercise personal autonomy without satisfying many other important normative demands. This suggests that Velleman’s endorsement of the unimpeded realisation of one’s beloved’s autonomy is wrong, insofar as a beloved’s autonomous choice may, in securing her personal interests, thwart her achievement of important goods, especially moral goods. In such cases, we have reason to hinder the unimpeded realisation of our beloved’s autonomy, precisely out of love for her.


autonomy, love, Velleman, Kant, Aristotle, perfectionism, prudential value