Autonomy and authority are often regarded as opposites. In this paper, I argue that autonomy
should be conceived of as a specific form of (practical) authority and that this perspective is
useful for identifying the conditions of personal autonomy. I will first highlight some structural
analogies in the functioning of the concepts AUTONOMY and AUTHORITY and explain the resulting
constraints on accounts of personal autonomy. I will then show that the problems of certain internalist and externalist accounts of autonomy are rooted in a false understanding of the foundation on which the authority that is characteristic of autonomy rests. To conclude, I present an account in which this foundation is given by a person’s maturity (Mündigkeit), defensiveness (Wehrhaftigkeit) and participation (Mitsprache): Thus, a person is autonomous to the extent that she can cope with her own affairs, can defend herself against external encroachments and can participate in common affairs.