Javnost 5 (4):5 - 18 (1998)

Tim Heysse
KU Leuven
According to Thomas Nagel the desire for autonomy leads to a dilemma: to be certain that no unknown influence determines our decisions, we are driven to seek as much information as possible about what makes the reasons we have the reasons for us. Eventually, we end up with a perspective that is so objective that there are no longer such things as decisions or choices, but only alternatives in the course of the world. A way out is suggested by the work on interpretation of Donald Davidson and by remarks of Habermas: autonomy does not require a totally objective view, because in the interpretation of actions, we decide on their autonomy. However, on Habermas's own view, autonomy is also not something that we can have, because he links autonomy to a final interpretation. The common root of Nagel's and Habermas' failure to make sense of autonomy are the famous views of C. S. Peirce about rational inquiry and knowledge. If autonomy presupposes transparency in so far that we know that there are no external influences and if we think of this knowledge as the final and absolute knowledge of eternal truths, it is only to be expected that this kind of knowledge, and therefore autonomy, cannot be had.
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DOI 10.1080/13183222.1998.11008687
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