chapter  4
27 Pages

Autonomy, Identifi cation, and Morality

In Chapter 2 , I introduced the psychological conception of eudaimonic well-being and argued that eudaimonic well-being provides us with a compelling way of thinking about well-being that is also a particularly fruitful one when thinking about well-being within the framework of eudaimonistic virtue ethics. Eudaimonic well-being describes a kind of well-being that consists in the state of positive psychological functioning that arises when one’s innate psychological needs are satisfi ed, such that we experience eudaimonic well-being to the extent that we satisfy needs. Innate psychological needs consist of drives leading us to seek out certain experiences and ways of living-drives that, when thwarted, normally result in harmful and destructive consequences to our psychological, physical, and cognitive functioning but that, when fulfi lled, normally enable us to function at our best. Selfdetermination theorists identify three such needs as fundamental: relatedness, autonomy, and competence. We have seen in the previous chapter the signifi cant moral implications of the need for relatedness, which feasibly requires that we interact with others in a way that demonstrates our care and respect for them. Refl ection on the need for relatedness thus offers us insight into what it means to act well and how we ought to regard and treat others. Refl ection on the remaining needs for autonomy and competence offers a different kind of insight, for they are satisfi ed primarily through the attitudes and other cognitive states that we bring to our patterns of behavior. 1 As we will see in this chapter, the need for autonomy is satisfi ed largely in the attitude we take toward our actions and the extent to which we are able to identify with the goals and pursuits toward which those actions aim.