03 July 2014

from Lawrence, SATURDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The limits of personal autonomy.

Dear Friends,

Don't forget that in July we now MEET on SATURDAY at six thirty pm.

In the meantime our topic this SATURDAY is: The limits of personal
autonomy. This is quite apt given that everyone in the city takes off to
kingdom come for the next three months thus limiting our autonomy to
meet when we usually do for our philosophy meetings.

In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:

Hi Lawrence,
Below is the link to the essay I wrote for Saturday's PhiloMadrid.

See you next time.
All the best,

And I have written a few ideas on the subject.

------from Lawrence

The limits of personal autonomy.

We can agree that a working definition of autonomy would be independence
from external influences. However, this cannot possibly be unlimited
ability and opportunity to act at will.

To being with, our bodies are limited to the laws of physics and even
more important to the biological structure it is made of and made for.
Thus our first limitation is related to our very biological body that we
are. Furthermore, we usually ascribe more properties to personhood than
mere body existence. For example, we don't ask about the limits of
autonomy about a fridge. Refrigerators are designed to function with set
of mechanical objective and that is it.

But it is also true that we see our actions as being willed and we will
our body to go through a series of physical movements to bring about a
physical state of affairs to satisfy our person desires. Even a very
metaphysical objective such as a will to do good to others requires
physical acts that have to be willed from our part.

In reality, however, even our acts which we perceive as being free and
independent are themselves limited to a number of factors that are not
biological or physical limitations but human made limitations. The
capacity to spell-check my errors whilst writing is a direct product of
the algorithm written by the IT engineers who designed my word
processor. But since the algorithm sometimes gets it wrong because it
has to deal with my text in English and its default Spanish setting
because I bought my PC in Spain, is clearly a limitation on my personal
autonomy. We can argue about PC design flaws but we can accept that this
is not necessarily a limitation to limit our freedom to act or maybe as
an act of aggression against us.

But is my inability to afford a house another of those neutral
limitations or something more. Maybe my inability to buy a house and the
African worker's inability to afford to buy a loaf of bread every day is
more than just a neutral happenstance. Maybe my inability to buy a car
is designed in the economic model of income remuneration for labour.
Natural objects are physically scarce objects, so we just cannot produce
enough cars for everyone. Even the ubiquitous mobile phone is limited to
distribution costs.

So when we think we are free and independent to act on personal volition
we are really acting within the confines of our sphere of independence
set up within the economic model. I can give one million Euros in
charity because I have access to an income large enough to make it
possible to have spare money to make a one million euro donation to
charity. In reality our actions are always limited to our physical
capacity; even those who not paid up empiricists would find it difficult
to pray to god every minute of their life. Sooner or later they will
drop dead like the rest of us!

Thus our personal limits are first and foremost dictated by our
biological make up and secondly our autonomy is limited by the physical
make up of the environment around us. We can even go so far as to accept
these limitations as neutral limitation absent of malice. But what about
the boss who keeps holding us back on a promotion because of jealousy,
would this be a neural limitation or a malicious act? And when a
government taxes their people such that it takes them the equivalent of
six months wages to pay, would this be another of those things or a
malicious policy to oppress people?

In reality the limits of our personal autonomy are very numerous indeed.
To use an analogy, being able to buy a house and live a comfortable life
is the equivalent of man going to the moon in space travel terms; it
looks impressive from our context but irrelevant in the big picture.
Thus being able to choose what house or what car to buy might seem
spectacular from our perspective, but irrelevant from the perspective of
the empirical universe we are boxed in by our more powerful competitors.
The good news is that even these powerful competitors are limited by the
empirical forces activated by scarce resources.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SATURDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The limits of personal

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