Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 33, number 98, agosto 2001
What's Wrong with Selling Yourself into Slavery? Paternalism and Deep Autonomy
[¿Por qué está mal moralmente venderse uno mismo como esclavo? Paternalismo y autonomía profunda]
Andrew Sneddon
Philosophy Department
University of Calgary

asneddon@ucalgary.ca

Abstract: Such thinkers as John Stuart Mill, Gerald Dworkin, and Richard Doerflinger have appealed to the value of freedom to explain both what is wrong with slavery and what is wrong with selling oneself into slavery. Practical ethicists, including Dworkin and Doerflinger, sometimes use selling oneself into slavery in analogies intended to illustrate justifiable forms of paternalism. I argue that these thinkers have misunderstood the moral problem with slavery. Instead of being a central value in itself, I argue that freedom is a means of serving the real value of autonomy. Moreover, I argue that autonomy is ambiguous. In cases of conflict, autonomous choice, here called "shallow autonomy", can justifiably be limited to serve "deep autonomy", or self-rule. I use these notions to give a better understanding of the problem with selling oneself into slavery, and argue that the work of Dworkin has to be seriously revised, and Doerflinger's position has to be given up altogether.
Keywords: autonomy, freedom, Gerald Dworkin, John Stuart Mill, paternalism, Richard Doerflinger, slavery

Abstract in Spanish | PDF in English (92 Kb)