Autonomy as a human need

choiceTo be fully human is to make one’s own decisions and initiate one’s own actions in life.

In this essay at The Creativity Post, physician Alan Lickerman writes:

“restrictions on our autonomy may lie at the heart of a great deal of our unhappiness. Studies show, for example, that one of the greatest sources of dissatisfaction among doctors isn’t having to deal with insurance companies or paperwork but lack of control over their daily schedules. (I’ve found this to be true: nothing distresses me more in the course of my work day than feeling hurried and unable to control how I spend my time.) I simply hate feeling forced to do things—even things I would want to do if I weren’t being forced to do them.”[1]

The good physician’s self-reflection is squarely within the long tradition of philosophical liberalism:johnlocke

John Locke, for example: “We naturally, as I said, even from our cradles, love liberty, and have therefore an aversion to many things, for no other reason, but because they are injoined us.”[2]

millJohn Stuart Mill is another: “Many a person remains in the same town, street, or house from January to December, without a wish or thought tending towards removal, who, if confined to that same place by the mandate of authority, would find the imprisonment absolutely intolerable.”[3]

And all three above are deeply, deeply opposed to the illiberal tradition that seeks to deny or crush individual autonomy: Augustine, Sulzer, Kant*, and Fichte.

Sources and note:
[1] Alan Lickerman, “The Desire For Autonomy”. The Creativity Post, November 30, 2012.
[2] John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education [1690], Section 148.
[3] John Stuart Mill, Collected Works of John Stuart Mill: Principles of Political Economy. Robson, J. M., ed. Books I-II. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006, p. 213.
* Yes, Kant is a mixed case.

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