Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

5/1/2008 - 6/30/2008

Funding Totals

$6,000.00 (approved)
$6,000.00 (awarded)

Scaffolded Autonomy: The Construction, Impairment, and Enhancement of Human Agency

FAIN: FT-56346-08

Joel Herbert Anderson
University of Utrecht (Utrecht NL-3508 TC Netherlands)

An NEH summer stipend would allow me to devote two months to completing the final two chapters of the book I am currently writing. The book develops a distinctive new approach to the social dimensions of personal autonomy and to the ways in which human agency can be supported or "scaffolded." Against traditional conceptions, I argue that autonomy is a complex normative status that is attributed within numerous ordinary social practices, practices that make sense only if we can presuppose of one another that we have certain competencies. Like human skills generally, these autonomy-competencies are acquired to varying degrees and often only with outside support. Conceptualizing autonomy this way thus opens up new perspectives regarding how one's autonomy can be enhanced (or impaired) through one's reliance on aspects of one's context that are not usually seen as belonging to the autonomous core of the agent, such as commitment mechanisms, symbolic resources, and neuro-prosthetics.