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The word autonomy derives from the two Greek words auto (“self”) and nomos (“law”). The term was originally applied to political entities in ancient Greece: An autonomous city-state, such as Athens, was one that laid down its own laws rather than having them imposed on it by some outside authority (e.g., by the Persians). Similarly, and as elaborated by the famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant, an autonomous person is someone who determines his or her own maxims or rules for action and acts in accordance with them. So an autonomous person, like an autonomous city-state or nation-state, is self-legislating.

There are two sets of distinctions to be kept in mind. The first distinction is between rationality and morality. An autonomous agent is a rational agent. ...

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