Reason and autonomy

Social Philosophy and Policy 20 (2):177-198 (2003)
Reason has co-opted our conception of autonomy. My purpose is to set autonomy free. Here is the problem: some philosophers, Kant most notably, have said that governing your life by reason or by being responsive to reason is the source of autonomy. But there is a paradox concealed in these plausible claims. On the one hand, a person can be enslaved to reason and lack autonomy because of this kind of bondage. On the other hand, if reason has no influence, then it appears that one would be the slave of one's passions, and, however eloquently Hume might have written about reason being the slave of the passions, there is something odd about the idea that a person who is enslaved by his passions is autonomous. The paradox, which I shall call the paradox of reason, is that if we are governed by reason in what we choose, then we are in bondage to reason in what we choose, and we are not autonomous. Yet, if we are not governed by reason, then we do not govern ourselves in what we choose, and again we are not autonomous
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