Autonomy (Ancient Greek: αὐτονομία autonomia from αὐτόνομος autonomos from αὐτο- auto- "self" + νόμος nomos, "law" "one who gives oneself their own law") is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it refers to the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision. In moral and political philosophy, autonomy is often used as the basis for determining moral responsibility for one's actions. One of the best known philosophical theories of autonomy was developed by Kant. In medicine, respect for the autonomy of patients is an important goal of deontology, though it can conflict with a competing ethical principle, namely beneficence. Autonomy is also used to refer to the self-government of the people.
In the subfield of Sociology called Sociology of knowledge, controversy over the boundaries of autonomy stopped at the concept of relative autonomy, until a typology of autonomy was created and developed within science and technology studies. According to it, the contemporary form of Science's existing autonomy is the reflexive autonomy: actors and structures within the scientific field are able to translate or to reflect diverse themes presented by social and political fields, as well as influence them regarding the thematic choices on research projects
In the United States government, autonomy refers to one's own self-governance. One former example of an autonomous jurisdiction into the United States government belong to the Philippine Islands; The Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 provided the framework for the creation of an autonomous government providing the Filipino people (Filipinos) broader domestic autonomy, though it reserved certain privileges to the United States to protect its sovereign rights and interests.
Indigenous people such as the Kuna people have used Autonomous principles as their original governance. Other indigenous groups such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation have taken on this structure in recent years as a response to the globalization.
Autonomy is a key concept that has a broad impact on different fields of philosophy. In moral philosophy, autonomy is the ability to impose objective moral law on oneself. Kant argued that autonomy is demonstrated by a person who decides on a course of action out of respect for moral duty. That is, an autonomous person acts morally solely for the sake of doing "good", independently of other incentives. In his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant applied this concept to create a definition of personhood. He suggested that such compliance with moral law creates the essence of human dignity.
In metaphysical philosophy, the concept of autonomy is referenced in discussions about free will, fatalism, determinism, and agency.
In the polity of the Orthodox Church, the term "autonomous" describes a type of church body. A church that is autonomous has its highest-ranking bishop, such as an archbishop or metropolitan, appointed by the patriarch of the mother church from which it was granted its autonomy, but is self-governing in all other respects.
In a medical context, respect for a patient's autonomy is considered a fundamental ethical principle. This belief is the central premise of the concept of informed consent and shared decision making. This idea, while considered essential to today's practice of medicine, was developed in the last 50 years. According to Beauchamp and Childress (in Principles of Biomedical Ethics), the Nuremberg trials detailed accounts of horrifyingly exploitative medical "experiments." These incidences prompted calls for safeguards in medical research. In the 1940s, the phrase "informed consent" appeared but didn't become widely used until the 1970s. Initially, discussions about informed consent focused almost exclusively on research subjects, but eventually has come to apply to the conventional physician-patient relationship as well. The seven elements of informed consent (as defined by Beauchamp) include threshold elements (Competence and Voluntariness), information elements (Disclosure, Recommendation, and Understanding) and consent elements (Decision and Authorization).
International human rights law
The Yogyakarta Principles, a document on international human rights law, affirms that "self-determination" used as meaning of autonomy on one's own matters including informed consent or sexual and reproductive rights, is integral for one's self-defined or gender identity and refused any medical procedures as a requirement for legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender.
Restrictions on autonomy
Autonomy can be, and usually is to one extent or another, waived to another authority, such as by agreeing to follow governing laws. The actions available to an autonomous unit can be restricted by a more powerful authority, such as when a cattleman sets a fence around his herd, or a court sentences a criminal to prison. The decisions of an autonomous unit can be coerced, and its actions forced. Autonomy can be restricted through the aspect of the ability to act, as in the case of a newborn or through the aspect of the ability to decide as in the case of a person in a coma.
Autonomy is an increasing feature of space systems with two objectives
- Mandatory for new functions:
- e.g. several spacecraft in formation flight adjust their relative positions so that interferometric measurements with wide basis can be performed
- Cost reduction:
- e.g. failure detection and recovery by spacecraft system without ground station involvement reduces Up-/Downlink usage and reduces operational costs on ground.
- See Robotics:
An Autonomous Space Craft might make certain decisions for itself based on imagery observation and a pre-programmed algorithm that will determine the only possible logical outcome and then perform that task without having to ask controllers NAND NOR AND types of parameters. Autonomy in Space does not relate to the socio-political definitions, here we are talking about a device that can make basic or convoluted decisions based on LOGIC (in an electronic usage), the X37b Military Space Plane is a great example!
To have true Autonomy however a device (or entity) would need to have a longer leash being able to complete complex missions without human intra direction. Such a system would say further automate the other elements of the total process making the whole of the "system" larger by including more devices that multicommunicate with each other without involving ground based technicians or communications. (the military might not want to send possibly interceptable signals to and from said same)
For example: If they automated the ground based tracking and control sending and or included additional satellites and/or space planes OR other devices (autonomous air and seacraft) the X37b Missions could someday become totally Autonomous.
- Basically: Send it on a mission and recover it when it lands.
- Obviously Autonomy here too has its authority hierarchy whereby command override
is in effect. If the ground controllers want to they can take control of the space craft at any time. A typical mission though will be preprogrammed and perform as directed and land.. OR perform a task WHILE and/or UNTIL (in a software sense) a condition is met (say a signal sent from the ground) IF/THEN Land the Un-Manned SpaceCraft without further direction from the ground. The systems so happen to interact but that is not a necessary condition for autonomy. As each device becomes more and more autonomous the total network becomes more and more intelligent and at the same time secure
- Please see Cybernetics for more info.
- In computing, an autonomous peripheral is one that can be used with the computer turned off
- Within self-determination theory in psychology, autonomy refers to 'autonomy support versus control', "hypothesizing that autonomy-supportive social contexts tend to facilitate self-determined motivation, healthy development, and optimal functioning."
- In mathematical analysis, an ordinary differential equation is said to be autonomous if it is time-independent.
- In linguistics, an autonomous language is one which is independent of other languages, for example has a standard, grammar books, dictionaries or literature etc.
- In robotics "autonomy means independence of control. This characterization implies that autonomy is a property of the relation between two agents, in the case of robotics, of the relations between the designer and the autonomous robot. Self-sufficiency, situatedness, learning or development, and evolution increase an agent’s degree of autonomy.", according to Rolf Pfeifer.
- In economics, autonomous consumption is consumption expenditure when income levels are zero, making spending autonomous to income.
- In politics, autonomous territories are States wishing to retain territorial integrity in opposition to ethnic or indigenous demands for self-determination or independence (sovereignty).
- In anti-establishment activism, an autonomous space is another name for a non-governmental social center or free space (for community interaction).
- Self-determination (philosophy)
- Cornelius Castoriadis
- Takis Fotopoulos
- Teaching for social justice
- Viable System Model
- Territorial autonomy
- Self-governing colony
- Sui iuris
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