How Nudging Upsets Autonomy

Speaker: David Enoch
Respondent: Thomas Douglas

Abstract: Everyone suspects – perhaps knows, but at least suspects – that nudging offends against the nudged’s autonomy. But it has proved rather difficult to say why. In this paper I offer a new diagnosis of the tension between even the best cases of nudging and the value of autonomy. If true, this diagnosis improves our understanding of nudging, of course, but it also improves our understanding of the value of autonomy. Relying on the distinction between autonomy as sovereignty and autonomy as non-alienation, I show that nudging need not offend against either. But it does sever the tie between them, the possibility of achieving non-alienation in virtue of having sovereignty. Analogies to common themes in virtue epistemology help to establish this point.