Relational autonomy: Bridging a gap between feminism and German Idealism

Jane Dryden, Fordham University


Political, moral, and legal questions often come down to the presupposition of the independence of the self. Recent feminist work on relational autonomy has challenged this presupposition by arguing that self-determination is inherently social. This work is structurally similar to the conceptions of personal freedom and self determination that can be found in German idealism, primarily in Fichte and Hegel. Despite the similarity, there has not been a recent, detailed attempt to bring the two to the table. Consequently, my dissertation will argue that there is a bridge to be built, which is important because (1) the feminist work has not adequately explored the metaphysics of the subject involved in relational autonomy; namely, how a self who is constituted in and through social relations can still be said to be an autonomous individual; (2) the scholarship in German idealism has not made any sustained attempt to view the idealist practical philosophy in the light of the important work that has been done by feminists on issues of subjectivity and relationality, and the political implications of this relational theory in today's context. Further, both of these sets of scholarship have been inadequately brought into the contemporary mainstream analytic discussions of autonomy; it is my hope that a carefully articulated view of relational autonomy that drew from both of these sources could ultimately dialogue with the mainstream discussion.

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Recommended Citation

Dryden, Jane, "Relational autonomy: Bridging a gap between feminism and German Idealism" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3310416.