In the modern world, we are increasingly accustomed to a culture which is based on liberty; the freedom of individuals to act as they choose, albeit within certain limits that usually concern the avoidance of harm to others. Thus, for example, the right to free speech is constrained by laws on defamation which limit what we can say when our freedom to say it would cause harm to others. However, given the emphasis on liberty and freedom, we generally anticipate a relatively ‘hands off’ approach from the state (or other organisations), thereby facilitating our ability to determine the shape of our own lives; to make our own decisions – to be autonomous. Atkins says:

It is the particularity of our points of view that we respect when we respect autonomy. Autonomy, in the liberal tradition, is generally understood as self-determination: the freedom to pursue one’s conception of the good life, just as long as it does not impinge upon another’s identical freedom.1