Department of Philosophy



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Richard J. Healey, Sheffield University

"A Relational Theory of Consent"

In both everyday morality and the law it is widely assumed that individuals are able to waive rights by giving consent. For example, by giving consent A can make it permissible for B to have sex with her. Similarly, by giving consent a patient can make it permissible for a doctor to perform risky and invasive surgery. Yet despite the important role that consent plays in our lives, few have addressed in any detail the question of why consent is essential for the realization of morally decent interpersonal relationships. Rather, it is simply assumed that the power of consent flows naturally from the value of personal autonomy.

In this talk I reject two intuitive autonomy-based theories of consent, and argue for a third, relational theory of consent. According to the relational theory, consent plays a central role in the management of our normative relationships for two reasons. First, consent provides individuals with a sufficient measure of control over those aspects of their lives that are protected by rights. Second, the practice of consent allows individuals to mutually recognise one another as having legitimate control over the central aspects of their lives. Ultimately I argue that the relational theory of consent captures the core intuitions that motivate autonomy-based views, while avoiding the problems associated with those accounts.



Thursday, March 31, 2016

Watson Hall 517 @ 4:00 pm

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