Call for Papers: A Workshop on Autonomy and Vulnerability
February 23-24, 2018
Emory University School of Law
A Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative Workshop
"If respect for persons as autonomous agents is a basic ethical principle, then the vulnerability of the human condition does not make sense. It does not lead to constructive action and intervention."
- Henk ten Have, Vulnerability: Challenging Bioethics
This workshop asks participants to consider how the apparent opposition between vulnerability and autonomy may be reframed. Vulnerability and autonomy have long been thought of as oppositional concepts. While vulnerability has generally been referenced as a state of insecurity and dependence, autonomy has most often been prized as a goal for individual wellbeing and self-fulfillment. From the perspective of autonomy as a normative ideal, vulnerability is understood as diminishing autonomy. This polarization is common across a range of disciplines including medicine, politics, philosophy, sociology, economics, and law.
When vulnerability is not understood as a synonym for incapacity or diminished will (for which autonomy is the cure) how might we rethink the primary role of our institutional structures in providing individuals with the prerequisites for the exercise of self-governance (however defined)? The consideration of vulnerability as an inescapable and generative aspect of the human condition, not as a negative or lack, may have helpful consequences for related concepts of dependency, powerlessness, control, agency and consent. Rather than aiming at the goal of individual autonomy, this conceptual shift may allow us to think about the production of resilience - as a set of tools and assets including educational, financial and social capital - both within institutions and through social relationships. This workshop seeks to interrogate the ideas, discourses, and norms of autonomy, in order to better understand the implications for law and policy that may result. This includes questioning, not only the supposed vulnerability/autonomy dyad, but concepts such as "relational autonomy" and "relative autonomy" which have sought to bridge this conceptual divide.
While health is one area that has received much attention in terms of autonomy, these questions are also of relevance to the workplace, to the home, to schools, to prisons, to government, and other institutional locations. Some commentators have argued that a claim for state response in these areas may more easily justify paternalistic and coercive forms of intervention. What problems in the relationship between the individual and the institutional are being flagged by the idea of 'paternalism,' and how might a rethinking of our concept of autonomy help to address some of these issues?
Martha Albertson Fineman, email@example.com | Stu Marvel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Email a proposal of several paragraphs as a Word or PDF document by November 8, 2017 to Rachel Ezrol, email@example.com.
Decisions will be made by November 17, 2017 and working paper drafts will be due January 26, 2018 so they can be duplicated and distributed prior to the Workshop.
The Workshop begins Friday at 4PM in Gambrell 575 at Emory Law School. A dinner will follow the panel presentation session on Friday. Panel presentations continue on Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5PM; breakfast and lunch will be provided.
VHC workshops are structured to allow for extended and meaningful participation by non-presenters and are open the public. To attend as a registered guest click here.