Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The English word autonomy is a compound of the Greek word autos meaning “self” or ”own,” and nomos , meaning “law.” Thus, in the original Greek, autonomy has the sense of (to give to) oneself one's laws, or perhaps, to make one's laws knowing that one is doing so. Contemporary usage of the word autonomy emerged in the eighteenth century, retaining a relation to the original Greek meaning but diverging in significant ways. Autonomy in contemporary usage is used synonymously with concepts such as freedom, liberty, and independence and is contrasted with concepts such as unfreedom, dependence, and heteronomy. In contemporary moral philosophy, autonomy is important in at least three distinct ways. First, autonomy is often thought to be the basis of human dignity, the property or capacity of human beings that makes humans worthy of our concern and potential bearers of rights. Similarly, autonomy is thought to be the ...