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Autonomy vs The Obligation to Conform to a Wider Community

  1. Mar 15, 2014 #1
    Are we truly autonomous beings or is our every decision and attitude dependent on the society in which we live?

    For instance, consider marriage. Inside a marriage a man and a woman may experience personal troubles, but when the divorce rate during the first 4 years of marriage is 250 out of every 1,000 attempts, this is an indication of a structural issue. (Mills, 1959) (The Sociological Imagination)

    Our priorities seem to be based upon being liked rather than to speak the truth. We do not, or rarely, publicly doubt ideas to which the majority is committed. We seek the approval of figures of authority and worry at length whether they think us acceptable.

    - . (Mills, 1959) (The Sociological Imagination)

    I also like to consider Marxist Perfectionism vs Liberalism. MP is the notion of prohibiting people from making the wrong decision. ...to what degree should one allow people personal freedom when taking into account the 'common good'?

    I am currently writing an essay for my Philosophy unit at university and would like to see other opinions about the notions of autonomy, not just from a philosophical or sociological perspective but also from a psychological and biological perspective also.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2014 #2
    Most but not all people are very conforming. Very few people are completely free of social conditioning. Logic plays a quite limited role in the lives of most. They just do what everyone else is doing.
  4. Mar 16, 2014 #3
    Why do you think they do this?
  5. Mar 16, 2014 #4
    Eric Berne's "Transactional Analysis" it seems to me is telling that every person is of three parts, the "Parent" within us which is the taught concept of life-we were programmed by our superiors when we were kids… the "Adult" within us which is the thought concept of life-the critical thinker… and the "Child" within us which is the emotional concept of life... e.g. it's emotionally rewarding to be "liked". http://www.businessballs.com/transact.htm

    Btw, is autonomy the same as free will? the wikipedia article about free will maybe helpful. The most important part of a wikipedia page is the reference section, I saw (#14) is about autonomy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
  6. Mar 16, 2014 #5
    They feel comfortable around people who are similar to themselves. They fear and mistrust the unknown and strange, as it is unpredictable and possibly dangerous.

    The life of very wealthy people is particularly codified and very conformist. I met quite a few at school. In that society it is very important to be trusted and predictable.

    Most people don't follow logic. They believe what their friends believe. This is particularly apparent in cults. Conversely, if you don't believe what your friends believe -- or don't at least pretend to believe what they believe -- then you may not remain their friend long.

    People need friends, customers, etc. It is a basic need. It makes sense to behave in such a way as to acquire and maintain friendships.
  7. Mar 16, 2014 #6


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    I'm not sure what point that is trying to make, but the obvious historical "issue" is that marriage changed from being a religious institution with rules that prevented divorcees from re-marrying (not to mention alleged side-effects like eternal damnation, hell-fire, etc) to a convenient legal arrangement for tax avoidance and debt financing.
  8. Mar 17, 2014 #7
    Approval of authority figure is one thing and obedience to authority figure is another thing. The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures is disturbing albeit it was just experiment which is subject to further analysis and interpretations. Against our 'free will' the majority of us will inflict pain or even kill our fellow human beings if an authority figure will say it's okay. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment
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