Digest of terms

heteronomy

a form of morality in which obedience to an external authority is held to be appropriate. Such authority may take the form of the state and its laws, a particular moral leader, or a particular moral code. The latter two are often found to be religious, not least in religions of revelation where, while authority rests ultimately with God, it is identified penultimately with scripture and tradition, as in Jewish, Christian and Muslim ethics. Critics urge that, while a measure of heteronomy is probably unavoidable (modes of moral thinking), it is essential for individuals to exercise individual responsibility, otherwise moral codes and teachings too readily risk becoming rigid and legalistic, and moral agents lose part of what is essential to their humanity - hence advocacy of the importance of nurturing autonomy. Heteronomy is often linked to hierarchy, and autonomy to equality.

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