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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Hilary Kornblith

Second Advisor

Peter Graham

Third Advisor

Sophie Horowitz

Fourth Advisor

Tara Mandalaywala

Subject Categories

Ethics and Political Philosophy | Feminist Philosophy


While it is intuitive to many that oppressive socialization undermines autonomy in virtue of its ability to shape the desires and values of the oppressed, it’s difficult to provide a plausible account of autonomy that can explain when and why socialization is autonomy undermining. I provide such an account, arguing that self-respect is a necessary condition for autonomous choice and that oppressive socialization functions in part by undermining the self-respect of the oppressed. On my account, our choices lack autonomy to the degree that they are motivated by a failure to respect ourselves as beings whose plans and desires matter as much as anyone else’s; whose capacity for rational deliberation and practical reasoning are valuable; and whose particularities and interests contribute to our value. This theory of personal autonomy is able to account for the lack of autonomy in a wide range of cases, for example, a cult member being brainwashed by a cult leader, or a wife being subservient to her husband. I defend this account against objections which claim that it is disrespectful to the oppressed to claim that their autonomy is undermined by their oppression, and in the final chapter, I expand my theory to explain not only what our minds must be like for us to be autonomous, but also what the world outside of us must be like.