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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

 

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