Front Page Titles (by Subject) Autonomy, Self, and Will Power - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
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Autonomy, Self, and Will Power - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Autonomy, Self, and Will Power
“Autonomy and the ‘Inner Self.’” American Philosophical Quarterly 17(January 1980):35–43.
In philosophical writings as diverse as those of Aristotle, Kant, Nozick, and Sartre, the notion of autonomy is closely linked with the concept of a person as a moral entity. Prof. Young examines one aspect of the moral dimension of autonomy: “What does it mean,” he asks, “to exercise one's freedom in such a way as to order one's life according to a plan or conception which fully expresses one's choices?”
Self-direction, for Young and Dworkin, includes such cognitivist factors as conscious choice of first-order motivations (convictions, desires, principles, etc.), reflective evaluation of motivations received second-hand, freedom from undue environmental manipulation, and authenticity. However, two elements complicate this cognitive picture. Self-deception may delude us insofar as our real desires are concerned, while chronic weak will in accomplishing those desires may cast doubt upon the depth of our conviction. Nevertheless, Young feels that, even in the face of repeated failures to accomplish one's goals, a recurring remorse is probably sufficient indication of a person's real preferences.
The deeply rooted pattern of self defeating behavior known as neurosis represents another threat to the task of unifying one's life according to an integrated hierarchy of self-chosen values. Autonomy, is founded upon sophisticated self-awareness. Neurosis, on the other hand, results from a fear and repression of knowledge. Psychology can aid the neurotic's painful search for autonomy by uncovering his neurotic pattern of evasion.
The remainder of Young's article deals with a neglected aspect of failed autonomy: weakness of will.
As stated above, repeated failure to achieve one's goals does not necessarily indicate a failure of autonomy. However, where such failures relate to a person's broad conception of his life's direction, there will almost certainly be a dimunition in global autonomy. Yet, as common as this nonattainment may be, some philosophers of note have argued that there can be no gap between belief and action for a free agent. Such a position leaves no room for the common sense notion of weakness of the will—the state in which a person has the desire and ability to accomplish his goals, yet does not do so.
Young reiterates that remorse following failures generally indicates that values are authentic. To what then can one ascribe the failures? Here weakness of will offers an explanation. For reasons of expediency, self-indulgence, lack of sufficient effort, etc., the self-appointed task has not been accomplished. The will to do was evidently lacking. In the course of this discussion, Young replies to Gary Watson's recent objections to the common sense position concerning weakness of the will.
Prof. Young reasserts that selfawareness is a significant factor in any victory over one's “worst self.” Nonetheless, in going beyond theory to winning the victory in actuality, it is the will, he declares, that holds the key.