Most ethicians consider to be the autonomy the fundamental condition of moral action. In the context of various ethical theories the concept of autonomy achieves various meanings. The aim of the paper is to show, how the idea of autonomy established itself in moral philosophy. It pays attention also to different conceptions of autonomy: beginning with its understanding as the highest principle in I. Kant and J. Rawls up to the conceptions, in which the autonomy is the basic condition of authenticity (the discussions of virtues and ideals by Ch. Tylor and B. Williams). Attention is paid also to the objections against underlining the importance of autonomy.