Cognitive autonomy – a perishing ideal?


Keywords: cognitive autonomy, personal autonomy, liberalism, John Locke, Russell Hardin

In today’s world, knowledge is increasingly becoming a social, collective phenomenon. Enlightenment philosophers, notably John Locke, declared that any opinion accepted without critical scrutiny, based on pure trust and testimony of others, was worthless, whereas it seems more characteristic of our time to claim that to pursue cognitive autonomy is an obsolete ideal. It is now normal and desirable to delegate judgment in intellectual matters to special sciences, human or machine experts, opinion leaders. The agent’s general personal autonomy is often (though not always) highly valued by those endorsing the liberal worldview. But it is unclear whether personal autonomy is possible without significant cognitive autonomy, or what such a situation would really mean. The present paper, taking as its starting-point some recent literature in analytical philosophy, outlines the basic conceptual framework and suggests some points for reflection.

Tiiu Hallap (b. 1960), MA, philosophy translator, tiiuhallap@gmail.com


Berlin, Isaiah 1998. Valik esseid. Tlk Erkki Sivonen. Tallinn: Hortus Litterarum.

Carter, J. Adam 2017. Intellectual autonomy, epistemic dependence and cognitive enhancement. – Synthese, nr 197, lk 2937–2961. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1549-y

Christman, John (toim) 1989. The Inner Citadel: Essays on Individual Autonomy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Christman, John 2015. Autonomy in moral and political philosophy. – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Toim Edward N. Zalta. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/autonomy-moral/ (1. VIII 2019).

Christman, John, Anderson, Joel (toim) 2005. Autonomy and the Challenges of Liberalism: New Essays. New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511610325.002

Dworkin, Gerald 1988. The Theory and Practice of Autonomy. New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511625206

Dworkin, Gerald 1989. The concept of autonomy. – The Inner Citadel: Essays on Individual Autonomy. Toim John Christman. New York: Oxford University Press, lk 54–62.

Feinberg, Joel 1989. Autonomy. – The Inner Citadel: Essays on Individual Autonomy. Toim John Christman. New York: Oxford University Press, lk 27–53.

Frankfurt, Harry 1987. Freedom of the will and the concept of a person. – H. Frankfurt, The Importance of What We Care About. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, lk 80–94.

Hardin, Russell 2003. If it rained knowledge. – Philosophy of the Social Sciences, kd 33, nr 1, lk 3–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/0048393102250280

Hill, T. 2013. Kantian autonomy and contemporary ideas of autonomy. – Kant on Moral Autonomy. Toim Oliver Sensen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, lk 15–31. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511792489.003

Locke, John 1975 [1689]. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lynch, Michael P. 2016. The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. London: W. W. Norton.

Madise, Ülle 2018. Vimm ja vabadus. – Postimees 10. XI.

May, Thomas 1994. The concept of autonomy. – American Philosophical Quarterly, kd 31, nr 2, lk 133–144.

Pritchard, Duncan 2016. Seeing it for oneself: Perceptual knowledge, understanding, and intellectual autonomy. – Episteme, kd 13, nr 1, lk 29–42. https://doi.org/10.1017/epi.2015.59

Schneewind, Jerome B. 1998. The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511818288

Sensen, Oliver (toim) 2013. Kant on Moral Autonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511792489

Taylor, James Stacey (toim) 2008. Personal Autonomy: New Essays on Personal Autonomy and its Role in Contemporary Moral Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.