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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Foundation of self-determination.

Foundation of self-determination
by Fabio Macioce

From a conceptual point of view, moreover, the principle of self- determination is based on a specific anthropology that builds the idea of human dignity on autonomy; and autonomy is what we invoke when we want to be the only ones to responsibly plan (and live) our lives5. Similarly, our life is worth living because it is the result of a conscious choice, a project which the author is only the subject himself: if a life (but even a simple fragment of life or a particular experience) is the result of another’s choice, even if it is objectively good in a utilitarian perspective, it is worthless because it is unrecognizable as his own life, that is not attributable to a personal plan.
If then a non-totally projected life (or a fragment of it) is a worthless life, the link between dignity and autonomy is so strong that in a democratic context each person must have an equal right to have his particular choices recognized: because they are the manifestations of his autonomy. Therefore, if everyone has an equal right to be able to choose how to direct his existence, every obstacle to the implementation of these choices will involve a violation of personal dignity.
In that perspective rights are precisely a defense of the subjective autonomy. Rights are a bulwark against any unjustified injury of self- determination, it is what allows each person to plan his life. If I want to choose myself, I want that to be the author of my life, because this is the essential condition for finding it fully worthy. The recognition of rights allows me to live together with other people without worry they may interfere with my life choices.
Imagine, for example, that Tom would like to read only Japanese comics. If someone compels him to read Russian novels, or to know Jane Austen’s works, this would be a violation of his autonomy, though certainly we can judge such readings to better his intellectual growth. And the fundamental rights (e.g. liberty of thought) ensure the choice of Tom, even if we think it is stupid or a bad choice for his cultural growth.
 Self-determination: a formalistic approach to liberty.
If we accept this approach, the right of liberty that the law recognizes to a single man must be understood in strictly formal terms. If liberty is itself a right which is the prerequisite for a worthy life, and precisely for a life lived in autonomy, the recognition of this right should be regardless of its content. This means that there is no value judgment in relation to the ways in which liberty is realized. In other words, only the individual can judge the particular ways he has chosen to realize his freedom. And most of all, these choices have no need to be judged good to be recognized and protected by law, since their justification is already in the personal choice. If Tom decides to exercise his right to choose what to read by only reading comic books, since this choice does not injure the rights of another, it is worthy to be protected by law.
We can therefore say that the recognition of a general right to liberty, and the absence of verifiable injury to the symmetrical rights of another, necessarily determine that a specific fundamental right is recognized to the person. In fact, since the contents of freedom are all internal to the subjective who will choose them, and because freedom is recognized as a right regardless of its contents (unless they do not infringe other people’s liberty), the rights enjoyed by the subject for the protection of his self-determination should be virtually endless. There is no list of rights, as extended, which can predict all the ways in which individuals will exercise their right of self- determination.
See for example, R. Dworkin’s theory of rights. Even though in his perspective the emphasis has shifted from liberty in a general sense to particular liberties, the basic paradigm is always centered on the individual: the rights pertain to the subject against the state, to the minority against the majority, in a vertical relationship who binds the individual to the power, and provides him, in different degrees, with a set of legal rights to protect himself against such power. Some rights may be considered essential, namely to ensure some liberties that only in exceptional cases can be compressed, and with strong reason, while others must be balanced with the interests of the community as a whole. But they both are conceived as subjective possibility guaranteed by law, and the person has and exercises them within the boundaries of the law.

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