What Can We Do? A Philosophical Analysis of Individual Self-determination

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Fabio Macioce


The principle of self-determination, as commonly intended, is based on a formal and individualistic view of liberty rights. This perspective, however, is inconsistent with the needs of a community, and particularly with the necessity to promote a relatively stable social order, and an integration between subjects. I propose a different perspective that takes into account the relationships rather than the individual. In particular, I will try to demonstrate 1) that any community implement a specific social order, that is a complex of practices, 2) that any social practices express specific values, 3) that these values are the result of historical and cultural circumstances, 4) that they are subject to an ongoing public debate, and, finally, 5) that only if the individual praxis is consistent with these values can it lead to recognition of rights. In that perspective there is no general liberty to determine itself outside of a specific relational situation. It could only be affirmed that one has a practical liberty (not a right) to do and to act as he wants, but his rights depend on relationships in which the person is engaged.

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