What is Autodeterminism (Moral Autonomy) and What Does It Mean?

What is Autodeterminism (Moral Autonomy) and What Does It Mean?

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

Autodeterminism; It is the view that reconciles determinism and indeterminism approaches and accepts moral action and will as a product of personality.


According to this view, which finds its expression in Kant, man freely determines moral laws with his own will (See: What is the Morality of Duty?). For this reason, moral laws are not laws that are imposed outside of human beings and that are required to be obeyed. Man still obeys the generally accepted moral laws that he determines with his own free will.

Although there are some factors that determine and affect human behavior for autodeterminism, freedom can be obtained personally. Freedom and moral environment are not presented to the individual; but this does not mean that one can never be free. Because man creates his own freedom.

According to the autodeterminist understanding, man creates his own freedom.

There is only one limit to this freedom, and that can only be a limit set by the human mind itself, not by external factors such as God or nature. For this reason, man can become free by using his mind.

Freedom is the freedom of man to create his own moral values ​​and to reach these values. The source of this freedom is personality. Man becomes free by developing his personality and using his mind.

Will and moral action are personality actions. A person who acts morally by using his will has become free by enriching his knowledge, developing his personality and using his mind. As a result, those who have developed personality are more free than those who are not developed. This situation is called the autodeterminist approach.

The moral views that have been put forward since ancient times have been shaped around three concepts. These are matters of the highest good, right action, and freedom of will. Autodeterminism is directly related to the problem of freedom of will. The question is whether the action is dependent on the free decision of the person doing the action.

According to the views based on the freedom of will, which is one of these three concepts, only a moral value can determine a moral action. In other words, a person aims to realize or not violate a value while acting. For example, an honest person is someone who realizes the value we call honesty.

Immanuel Kant and Autodeterminism

The most important proponent of autodeterminism, also known as moral self-determination or moral autonomy, is the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Immanuel Kant is known for his duty ethic.

According to Kant, people act not only out of natural necessities and bodily needs, but also in order to realize a moral value. We can decide our actions by our own decisions, independent of natural causes. In this sense, man is free. But freedom is not to act at will, but to act in accordance with the moral law.

According to Kant, while man is under natural determination, he is also free in his autonomous aspect.

According to him, someone who is in a position to act according to the law or order coming from outside will act out of fear of shame, while someone who acts morally and autonomously will think that the action must be done morally no matter what.

Video Lecture: What is Autodeterminism?

Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook