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Autonomy (Ancient Greek: αὐτονομία autonomia from αὐτόνομος autonomos from αὐτο- auto- "self" + νόμος nomos, "law", hence when combined understood to mean "one who gives oneself one's own law") is a concept found in moral, political, and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision. In moral and political philosophy, autonomy is often used as the basis for determining moral responsibility and accountability for one's actions. One of the best known philosophical theories of autonomy was developed by Kant. In medicine, respect for the autonomy of patients is an important goal, though it can conflict with a competing ethical principle, namely beneficence. Autonomy is also used to refer to the self-government of the people.
In the subfield of sociology called the sociology of knowledge, controversy over the boundaries of autonomy stopped at the concept of relative autonomy, until a typology of autonomy was created and developed within science and technology studies. According to it, the contemporary form of science's existing autonomy is the reflexive autonomy: actors and structures within the scientific field are able to translate or to reflect diverse themes presented by social and political fields, as well as influence them regarding the thematic choices on research projects. But the aristocracy was nonconforming.
In the United States government, autonomy refers to one's own self-governance. One former example of an autonomous jurisdiction into the United States government belong to the Philippine Islands; The Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 provided the framework for the creation of an autonomous government providing the Filipino people (Filipinos) broader domestic autonomy, though it reserved certain privileges to the United States to protect its sovereign rights and interests.
Indigenous people such as the Kuna people have used Autonomous principles as their original governance. Other indigenous groups such as the Zapatista Army of National Liberation have taken on this structure in recent years as a response to globalization.
Some communities in Spain, like Basque, have also asserted their autonomy through their ancient culture and history.
Autonomy is a key concept that has a broad impact on different fields of philosophy. In moral philosophy, autonomy is the ability to impose objective moral law on oneself. Kant argued that autonomy is demonstrated by a person who decides on a course of action out of respect for moral duty. That is, an autonomous person acts morally solely for the sake of doing "good", independently of other incentives. In his Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Kant applied this concept to create a definition of personhood. He suggested that such compliance with moral law creates the essence of human dignity.
In the polity of the Orthodox Church, the term "autonomous" describes a type of church body. A church that is autonomous has its highest-ranking bishop, such as an archbishop or metropolitan, appointed by the patriarch of the mother church from which it was granted its autonomy, but is self-governing in all other respects.
In a medical context, respect for a patient's personal autonomy is considered one of many fundamental ethical principles in medicine. Autonomy can be defined as the ability of the person to make his or her own decisions. This faith in autonomy is the central premise of the concept of informed consent and shared decision making. This idea, while considered essential to today's practice of medicine, was developed in the last 50 years. According to Beauchamp and Childress (in Principles of Biomedical Ethics), the Nuremberg trials detailed accounts of horrifyingly exploitative medical "experiments" which violated the subjects' physical integrity and personal autonomy. These incidences prompted calls for safeguards in medical research.
However, autonomy does not only apply in a research context. Users of the health care system have the right to be treated with respect for their autonomy, instead of being dominated by the power of the physician. Through the therapeutic relationship, a thoughtful dialogue between the client and the physician may lead to better outcomes for the client, as he or she is more of a participant in decision-making.
The seven elements of informed consent (as defined by Beauchamp) include threshold elements (competence and voluntariness), information elements (disclosure, recommendation, and understanding) and consent elements (decision and authorization). See also: "Informed Consent" 
There are many different definitions of autonomy, many of which place the individual in a social context. See also: relational autonomy, which suggests that a person is defined through her relationships with others, and "supported autonomy". which suggests that in specific circumstances it may be necessary to temporarily compromise the autonomy of the person in the short term in order to preserve her autonomy in the long-term. Other definitions of the autonomy imagine the person as a contained and self-sufficient being whose rights should not be compromised under any circumstance.
In certain unique circumstances government may have the right to temporarily override the right to bodily integrity in order to preserve the life and well-being of the person. Such action can be described using the principle of supported autonomy,[dead link] a concept that was developed to describe unique situations in mental health (examples include the forced feeding of a person dying from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, or the temporary treatment of a person living with a psychotic disorder with anti-psychotic medication). While controversial, the principle of supported autonomy aligns with the role of government to protect the life and liberty of its citizens.
The Yogyakarta Principles, a document with no binding effect in international human rights law, contend that "self-determination" used as meaning of autonomy on one's own matters including informed consent or sexual and reproductive rights, is integral for one's self-defined or gender identity and refused any medical procedures as a requirement for legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender. If eventually accepted by the international community in a treaty, this would make these ideas human rights in the law. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also defines autonomy as principles of rights of person with disability including "the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons".
Autonomy is an increasing feature of space systems with two objectives
An Autonomous Space Craft might make certain decisions for itself based on imagery observation and a pre-programmed algorithm that will determine the only possible logical outcome and then perform that task without having to ask controllers NAND NOR AND types of parameters. Autonomy in Space does not relate to the socio-political definitions, here we are talking about a device that can make basic or convoluted decisions based on LOGIC (in an electronic usage) - see X37b Military Space Plane for an example
To have true Autonomy however a device (or entity) would need to have a longer leash being able to complete complex missions without human intra direction. Such a system would say further automate the other elements of the total process making the whole of the "system" larger by including more devices that multicommunicate with each other without involving ground based technicians or communications. (the military might not want to send possibly interceptable signals to and from said same)
For example: If they automated the ground based tracking and control sending and or included additional satellites and/or space planes OR other devices (autonomous air and seacraft) the X37b Missions could someday become totally Autonomous.
is in effect. If the ground controllers want to they can take control of the space craft at any time. A typical mission though will be preprogrammed and perform as directed and land.. OR perform a task WHILE and/or UNTIL (in a software sense) a condition is met (say a signal sent from the ground) IF/THEN Land the Un-Manned SpaceCraft without further direction from the ground. The systems so happen to interact but that is not a necessary condition for autonomy. As each device becomes more and more autonomous the total network becomes more and more intelligent and at the same time secure
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Autonomy.|
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