In partnership with The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life and The BMJ.

This session explores tensions which emerged in a variety of ways during the Rome Symposium between autonomy and authority – the autonomy of the individual and the authority of the social group, which could be a family, profession or religion. Autonomy, as self-rule, is often seen as the cornerstone of individualistic liberal democracies, with strong cultural roots, but a narrow understanding of autonomy can be criticised. It will be suggested that this is especially obvious when links are made with other conceptually complex ideas such as the notions of dignity, personhood or authenticity. This critique of autonomy points in the direction of relational autonomy as a better option, emphasising as it does context and social embedding, where a broader conception of what it is to be a person holds greater strength. In turn, this broader vision, and consequently what it is to have autonomy, allows space for authority.