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Toward an Agent-Centered Theory of Voluntariness
Philosophy and History, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1456-4352
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The concept of voluntariness is central to informed consent and personal autonomy, yet it has been underexplored by bioethicists. There are various theories intended to explain voluntary choice and action. None is fully agent-centered, in the sense that the conceptualization of voluntariness takes into account the agent’s views of her decisions and actions. An agent-centered theory of voluntariness would promote analytical precision, and foster autonomy in healthcare and research practices. According to the most influential bioethical theory of voluntariness, here called the Voluntariness as Control theory, an action is non-voluntary if the agent is controlled by external influences. The theory is critically discussed from an agent-centered perspective, and a new conceptualization of voluntariness is proposed.

Keywords [en]
voluntariness, autonomy, informed consent, agent-centered, bioethics
National Category
Ethics
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-212299OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-212299DiVA, id: diva2:1134054
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2014-4024Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2014-4024
Note

QC 20170821

Available from: 2017-08-17 Created: 2017-08-17 Last updated: 2017-08-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Personal Autonomy and Informed Consent: Conceptual and Normative Analyses
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Personal Autonomy and Informed Consent: Conceptual and Normative Analyses
2017 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This licentiate thesis is comprised of a “kappa” and two articles. The kappa includes an account of personal autonomy and informed consent, an explanation of how the concepts and articles relate to each other, and a summary in Swedish.

Article 1 treats one problem with the argument that a patient’s consent to treatment is valid only if it is authentic, i.e., if it is “genuine,” “truly her own,” “not out of character,” or similar. As interventions with a patient’s life and liberties must be justified, the argument presupposes that the authenticity of desires can be reliably determined. If the status of a desire in terms of authenticity cannot be reliably determined, discarding the desire-holder’s treatment decision on the basis that it is inauthentic is morally unjustified. In the article, I argue that no theory of authenticity that is present in the relevant literature can render reliably observable consequences. Therefore, the concept of authenticity, as it is understood in those theories, should not be part of informed consent practices.

Article 2 discusses the problem of what it is to consent or refuse voluntarily. In it, I argue that voluntariness should be more narrowly understood than what is common. My main point is that a conceptualization of voluntariness should be agent-centered, i.e., take into account the agent’s view of her actions. Among other things, I argue that an action is non-voluntary only if the agent thinks of it as such when being coerced. This notion, which at first look may seem uncontroversial, entails the counterintuitive conclusion that an action can be voluntary although the agent has been manipulated or coerced into doing it. In defense of the notion, I argue that if the agent’s point of view is not considered accordingly, describing her actions as non-voluntary can be alien to how she leads her life. There are other moral concepts available to describe what is wrong with manipulation and coercion, i.e., to make sense of the counterintuitive conclusion. Voluntariness should be reserved to fewer cases than what is commonly assumed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Kungliga Tekniska högskolan, 2017. p. 65
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
National Category
Ethics
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-212300 (URN)978-91-7729-495-5 (ISBN)
Presentation
2017-10-20, 16:04 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2014-4024Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2014-4024
Note

QC 20170821

Available from: 2017-08-21 Created: 2017-08-17 Last updated: 2017-08-21Bibliographically approved

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Ahlin, Jesper

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