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By Billie Grahm

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Yet this communitarian claim seems to flout our natural instincts and understandings of ourselves. We do not see ourselves as bound for life to certain ends and commitments, but believe we can (and do) make choices in life that change its direction and make new commitments, which alter our identity. It is certainly not the case that all people do make such choices. Some people seem so embedded in a particular social practice that they become blinkered and unable to review that practice in any meaningful sense.

Finally, it is undeniable that some have a greater ability for rationality than others, and this could well mean that they will be more autonomous. However, it does not imply that, when making collective decisions, the autonomy of the more rational should be valued above the autonomy of the less rational. I agree with Dworkin that what matters is that all citizens have the capacity to be autonomous to a certain level, even though some will have a capacity well above this level: it does not justify a hierarchy.

It is, of course, very difficult to say what the ‘certain level’ of rationality is, which is essentially an empirical question and one which cannot be addressed here, despite the fact that it is of central importance. Nevertheless, excluding those not sufficiently autonomous from collective decisions is not legitimate because this would break the essential relationship between autonomy and democracy. Those excluded from collective decision-making would lose the opportunity to be autonomous – a point J.

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