Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article


Andrew Dobsona1

a1 Politics, Keele University


In this article the implications of our nature as both autonomous and heteronomous beings is discussed. It is suggested that our condition as part-dependent creatures calls for a reconsideration of the nature of both freedom and liberalism, and the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Jean-Paul Sartre is used to illustrate the natural and historical dimensions of our dependency. The conclusion reached is that neither deep ecological re-enchantment nor full-blooded cornucopianism are possible, and that we need to take our nature as semi-dependent creatures seriously as we seek ways of negotiating our way through our environmental problems.


  • freedom;
  • dependency;
  • autonomy;
  • heteronomy;
  • Kant;
  • MacIntyre;
  • Sartre;
  • dialectic;
  • liberalism

Andrew Dobson is Professor of Politics at Keele University, United Kingdom. He specializes in environmental political theory. Among his publications are Green Political Thought (4th ed., 2006), Justice and the Environment (1998), and Citizenship and the Environment (2003). He was a founding editor of the international journal Environmental Politics.


I am deeply indebted to conversations about this topic with Mike Hannis, doctoral candidate at Keele University, UK. His expertise in this area exceeds my own by far, and his doctoral thesis on “Freedom and Sustainability,” due to be submitted in 2010, will be a landmark contribution to the field.