Scaffolded autonomy

last updated August 18, 2013


My main research interests have to do with the relationship between human nature and the social world, particularly on the ways in which various social structures provide much-needed supports for our limited rationality, will-power, and self-understanding. In a phrase, our autonomy requires scaffolding.

One of my current projects is a book on "scaffolded autonomy", defending the idea that autonomy is an intersubjective construction that is sustained by social structures and relations of mutual recognition.  

In some of my writings, I take up more directly the idea of the social, relational, or “intersubjective” character of personal autonomy.

The idea of “scaffolding” is also related to the idea I’m developing of "extended will".  This parallels work in philosophy of mind on “distributed cognition” and “the extended mind”, but also ties in more directly with work on self-regulation, willpower, and “executive” dimensions of autonomy. I’ve taken up in the chapter on “Procrastination and the Extended Will” that I wrote with Joseph Heath for The Thief of Time:  Philosophical Essays on Procrastination.