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Autonomy, History, and the Origins of Our Desires

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A popular view among autonomy theorists is that facts about the history of a person's desires, and specifically facts about how they were formed or acquired, matter crucially to her autonomy. I argue that while there is an important relationship between a person's autonomy and the history of her desires, a person's autonomy does not depend on how her desires were formed or acquired. I argue that a desire's autonomy lies not in its origins but in whether its bearer has a history of having engaged with it in the right sort of way. I argue that this view has important advantages, and no obvious disadvantages, over its historical and its non-historical rivals.

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