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Essay Paper on Individual Autonomy & Modern Philosophy

Autonomy refers to the right of the individual to govern themselves. But do we really govern ourselves? Of course the way we look at philosophy now is much different then the way Socrates, Plato and their government viewed it. However, we still ask ourselves the same questions as the philosophers years ago. We will never be free from authority, or able to make our own decisions. People say “be your own person, follow your own beliefs”. But how is that possible with the rules and regulations place on today’s culture. The government still controls us as much as Socrates’ government controlled him, although it is not as obvious. I am not saying that government is bad, or unneeded. Without some control, this community we live in would be total chaos. It is hard to understand what the proper relationship is between us as individuals and the community we are apart of. Authority is necessary, but are we slowly moving toward a “big brother” kind of society? To me, the government is always watching us. They do not allow us to have intellectual independence or freedom from authority. In school, I never seem to have the right answer, even if I believe strongly that it is the answer for me. At work, if I have an idea about an easier way to do something, it is wrong, and I should do as my boss says.

Autonomy is difficult to understand. I believe it has a slightly different meaning to everyone. To me, it is more spiritual. The government can never take that from me. I believe in God, and that is my intellectual independence from authority. That is my basic belief. Socrates was willing to die for his belief, and for his country. I do not know if I could have been as strong as he was, because I feel very differently about government then he did. I am not saying I would not go to war and die for my country. I know the United States today is free. But it is also hard for me to believe that is will remain that way for my great great grandchildren. I hope that they will be able to make their own judgments about philosophy and autonomy, and not be forced to believe everything in text. That is one wonderful thing about philosophy. It seems to be untouched by the government. It is hard to put on paper what I believe about life, and the meaning of Reality. But it is nice to be able to “believe”, and not be told what is “right”. I want to question what I am told, even if it is a fact in a textbook. I want to be able to write an essay on what “I” believe instead of what the teacher believes. To me, that is what philosophy and autonomy is all about. In a world where kids are no longer allowed to say a prayer before lunch, it is nice to know we can sit in a classroom and discuss how one person’s belief affects our own, no rules, no regulations. I want more things in society to be that way. I want to ask questions and not be told I’m wrong.

Now, we must observe the relationship between morality and autonomy. Morals can not be forced. They can be taught and understood. But in the end, it is up to the individual as to what they believe is morally right. Morality relates directly to autonomy in my view. In order to achieve freedom from authority and true intellectual independence, one must have strong morals. A man on death row for the murder of his children can not say he was exercising his own personal autonomy. He obviously has no morals; therefore he has no right to freedom from authority, at least that is the way I see it. The two go hand in hand. My morals teach me religion is the basis on which I should live my life. Therefore, if I choose to say “one nation, under god” in the pledge, I do not feel as though I am breaking the law, even if technically I am. These days, philosophy and autonomy play a role in just about everything. I am studying Plato in government, for example. The two are backbones in our community. They keep us going, keep us moving towards what we believe. Sometimes it feels like philosophy is the only way we can express our true selves, even though we are still judged just as the early philosophers were. But where would we be without them? That just proves that we should keep on learning about them, and about what they believed, not so that we can agree, but so that we can relate our own beliefs and have a backbone to follow…

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