Autonomy by Richard Lindley (auth.)

By Richard Lindley (auth.)

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The desire to leap off the precipice may be a case in point. Let us call inclinations to pursue a goal, in the absence of any belief that the goal is in any respect worth desiring, 'a-desires' (to signify the absence of a supporting reason). Are a-desires essentially irrational? People are inclined to say that it is irrational to a-desire to leap (to one's death) off a precipice. Whilst accepting that it would be irrational to act on such an a-desire, I think the Humean would be right to insist that there is nothing irrational about having adesires.

People are, on this view, simply beset by feelings. If moral responsibility, and therefore moral desert, is to be possible, there has to be human motivation which is not just naturally determined. Moreover, this motivation must be attributable to the people who are allegedly responsible. Kant believed that pure practical reason was suitable for this role - of explaining how moral responsibility, and therefore, Christian morality, might be possible. As people have all sorts of feelings or inclinations, which come upon them through being~n certain places at certain times, principles of conduct which are the product Sf these inclinations, Autonomy as Pure Rationality 23 are not due to the self alone.

To be autonomous is to act on selfchosen principles. Rationality is, at least, the faculty which enables a person to make the best use of his ability to choose, and someone who makes better use of this ability is more in control of his decisions than a person who uses it less well. So any conception of autonomy requires its own view of rationality. Indeed, one of the key disagreements between different theories of autonomy is over the proper role of reason in the determination of desire and action.

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