Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

autonomy vs. conscience (coming back to Rob)

Rob Vischer writes: "Politically, I don't think there is much perceived difference in forcing all organizations to accommodate every individual employee and forcing all organizations to accommodate every individual consumer."

What is muddied not just in this sentence but, as Rob says, in the ongoing political debate is the distinction between autonomy and conscience. Accommodating employee conscience is far more important and at the same time far less costly than accommodating consumer autonomy (especially, as here, when what is at stake is only autonomy in the frivolous sense of "freedom to get whatever i want, when i want, how I want").

Not every limitation of my autonomy goes against my conscience. In fact, very few do. Certainly forcing me to pick up a telephone and call around for a pharmacy where i can purchase a drug (which i know many find morally objectionable) burdens my autonomy only in the trivial sense defined above, and my conscience not at all.

Where consumers' consciences are somehow at stake, e.g. where would-be-doctor consumers of education are forced to do abortions in order to get their degrees, their conscientious objections should of course be accommodated. (I'm sure there must be a hypo where a client at a pharmacy would be forced to violate his/her conscience, but I couldn't come up with it. Anyway, if there were such a situation, that would be a strong claim, too.)


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