Friday, February 03, 2012

Midgley on Modern Autonomism

This inflated notion of autonomy is the mirror-image of Socrates's paradox that 'nobody does wrong willingly.' Socrates eliminated the will, making moral choice seem an entirely intellectual matter. Modern autonomism leaves nothing but the will, a pure, unbiassed power of choice, detached equally from the choosing subject's present characteristics and from all the objects it must choose between. In doing this it far outruns its distant ancestor Kant, more and more limited quotations from whom still appear as its warrant, and who still gets attacked for its excesses....Whatever his mistakes, Kant was always trying seriously to make sense of human life, and therefore to bring its two sides together in the end. By contrast, modern autonomism is embattled, and will have no truck with the opposition.
[Mary Midgley, Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay. Routledge (New York: 1996) p. 54]

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