Autonomy is not a philosophy, not an ideology, not a political movement, or even a political viewpoint.
Autonomy means "self-rule", but it means more than that. It means that everything we do is self-determined. It means that no matter what hereditary traits we are born with, no matter what environmental conditions influence us, no matter what feelings, desires, or passions drive us, what we do is ultimately determined by what we choose. Heredity and environment provide the resources and determine the limits that define the field of choices available to us, but cannot determine our choices. Our feelings, desires, and passions affect our tastes, interests, and preferences, but can never replace our choices.
Autonomy is not an option, for us, it is our very nature. Even if we refuse to choose, that too is a choice. To act, even not to act, we must choose. Since all we do is determined by our choices, and, therefore, all that we are; all our successes or failures, our happiness or lack of it, are determined by what we choose, it is imperative we discover how to do it. That discovery, however, is not an easy one. In our day, it is more difficult than ever.
Most people are terrified of being responsible for their own choices and the consequences of them.
While the autonomist seeks the knowledge necessary to make right choices, the world seeks to evade choice altogether. But the reality is, we are required to choose and we cannot escape the consequences of our choices and the only way to evade this fact is to deny or obfuscate the truth of it.
The nature of truth is such that no idea can be held in complete isolation, and mistakes and errors in any concepts always have effects on others. To some extent one can compartmentalize their ideas, holding totally fallacious ones in one area while embracing completely sound ones in others, but such compartmentilization requires ignoring contradictions.
Some ideas are so basic they serve as the foundation for all other sound knowledge and thinking. So long as one understands these basic ideas, while mistakes may always be made, the foundation necessary for correct thinking and correcting mistakes, when they occur, is sound. When these ideas are confused or simply wrong, correct thinking is nearly impossible, and any false or erroneous ideas are impossible to detect or correct.
It is these ideas, which in our anti-intellectual age, that have been all but obliterated; their meanings intentionally obfuscated, or even reversed, by the pseudo-intellectual elite running our schools, the sociologists, philosophers, psychologists, junk-scientists, popular social commentators and all other self-appointed authorities dictating the, "acceptable," meaning of words to the gullible masses.
Here we must begin by defining what is meant by the words that identify these basic ideas. The meanings are those the words originally had, what everyone meant when they used them, before the anti-intellectuals got hold of them and twisted them into meaningless jumbles. You will be surprised how simple, even obvious these meanings are. It may even surprise you how powerful these words are, how understanding them makes your thinking so much clearer, sweeping away piles of intellectual lumber and confusion. You may wonder what purpose anyone could have for intentionally obfuscating their meanings.
we mean all that is the way it is
Reality is what is so, whether anybody knows what is so or not. Reality includes everything that is and excludes everything that is not. It includes everything, not as a random collection of unrelated things but every entity, every event and every relationship between them. It includes fictional things as fictions, hallucinations as hallucinations, historical things as historical things, and material things as material things. Reality does not include fictions (such as Santa Claus) as material or historical facts. It does include the fact that Santa Claus is a common fiction used for the enjoyment of Children at the Christmas season.
By truth we mean that which correctly describes reality or any aspect of it.
The following illustration demonstrates both the meaning of reality and truth.
Suppose you are very thirsty and find a bottle containing a colorless, odorless liquid. The liquid in this bottle is either water or a deadly poison. If you choose to drink the liquid one of two things will occur, your thirst will be pleasantly quenched or you will suffer excruciating pain and die.
Reality is what the liquid in the bottle actually is. Truth is whatever correctly describes that liquid. If the liquid is poison, only a statement that says the liquid in the bottle is poison is true. If you believe the liquid is water and drink it, if it is poison you will die. If you take a vote of everyone who has an opinion about what is in the bottle and they all say it is water, if you drink it and it is poison, you will die. If you feel very strongly that the liquid is water and drink it, if it is poison you will die. If an authority, scientist, or logician claims the liquid is water, if you drink it and it is poison, you will die.
Truth is not determined by belief, consensus, feelings or authority. It is determined by reality. It is determined by what is so, no matter what anybody believes, feels, thinks, or knows. In this case, the truth is determined by what really is in the bottle and only a statement that correctly describes that is the truth.
By reason we mean the mental process of non-contradictory identification and integration of ideas.
It is a mental process because the faculty which carries it out is the mind. It is not a chemical process, like digestion, or an emotive process, like the feelings, but an intellectual process carried out at the cognitive level of consciousness.
An example of a mental process is reading to yourself. You see the letters of the words or the words themselves directly, but as you read, it is your mind that supplies the meaning. You see the letters r e d, but it is your mind that supplies the meaning of red, and you might even mentally visualize a patch of red. Then you see the letters a p p l e, again it is your mind that supplies the meaning apple, and you might even form an image of an apple in your mind. The supplying of meaning and the mental images are both mental processes. Cognitive means pertaining to knowledge, so only the supplying of meaning part of the reading process is at the cognitive level. The mental visualization of red or an apple is imagination.
The process is non-contradictory because its object is truth, that which correctly describes reality. No aspect of reality can be self-contradictory. The liquid in the bottle is either poison, or it is not.
It is probably obvious why the process is non-contradictory, since a process that results in contradictions, "bill has a black mustache therefore bill is a vase of flowers," is simply absurd. [The usual example of "something cannot be both a and non-a" which while true, lacks something.] Identification is the process of isolating (mentally) entities (or classes or collections of entities) by virtue of the qualities that distinguish them from all other things. Integration is the process of joining or connecting (mentally) entities to each other and all other things by virtue of qualities they share or their relationships to one another.
Like all other faculties, the mind can be used incorrectly, resulting in all those kinds of contradictory notions, superstitions, hysteria, paranoia, and so-called mental disorders that dominate our society. While these incorrect uses of the mind are sometimes called "reason," they are not reason at all. Reason cannot hold any contradiction intentionally and conclusively. (Contradictions can be held tentatively while the process of reason is attempting to establish what is true, but only as a stage in the process, not at the conclusion of it.)
By knowledge we mean the product of the process of reason by which reality is understood and, on the basis of which, correct choices can be made.
Knowledge is the product of the correct use of the mind. The integration of all that reason identifies into a non-contradictory hierarchy of concepts (ideas) that enables us to understand the nature of and the relationship between various aspects of reality is knowledge. Each new concept is learned (integrated) by identifying its relationship to all other knowledge by its place in that hierarchy.
The mind is actually comprised of three interdependent faculties, volition (the ability to make conscious choice) rationality (the ability to reason) and intellect (the ability to hold and use knowledge). Because we are rational beings, to live, to act at all, we must choose to act. Even to do nothing, for human beings, requires a conscious choice. To fail to choose and, therefore, to fail to act, means death. But to choose, there must be some criteria, some means of preferring one possible action to another. That means is knowledge.
Only if we know what the result or consequence of an action will be can one action be preferred to another. Only if we understand the relationships between the elements of reality in which we live, (understand how they interact and behave), can we project the consequences of any action. Only if we know what is in the bottle can we choose correctly to drink or not to drink. If we don't know but guess what is in the bottle is water, and we are wrong, we will die. While not always this obvious, for human beings, knowledge is ultimately a matter of life and death.
By values we mean those essential ideas or principles by which all right and wrong choices are guided.
Values identify what is good and distinguish the good from the bad. Good is that which we act to achieve, gain, or keep. Bad is that which we act to avoid, eliminate, or loose. Values are a hierarchical system by which the good is identified in relationship to a highest good or ideal.
Values are both relative and absolute. Values are relative in the sense that to be good, something must be good to someone for something. There is no such thing as intrinsic good. Values are absolute in the sense that the relationships that determine what is good and bad are inexorably dictated by reality.
The absolute nature of values is determined by two aspects of reality, 1. what kind of beings the good is good for, and 2. what kind of world (reality) they live in. In abstract terms, values are determined by the requirements of our nature and how our nature relates to the nature of all reality. In plain terms, values describe what is good for the kind of beings we are living in the kind of world we live in.
Values define the good. Existentially, there is only good. There can be more good and less good, and there can be things that increase the good, and there can be things that diminish it. Now what we call evil is really less good or that which diminishes the good. Without good, however, there can be no evil. Sickness is evil, but there could be no sickness if there were no health. If there were no life there could be no death. Poverty is evil, but there could be no poverty if there were no wealth.
This does not mean that there is no evil, or that it is not real. It means that evil is not a positive, and exists only as a negation of the good, and, therefore, can never exceed good. It means that evil cannot exist on its own, but only where there is good. Anything that limits, diminishes, or threatens good is evil, and its embodiment in people, movements, teachings, acts, and governments are rightly called evil.
Values are the most important kind of knowledge. All knowledge is important to correct choices, but without values, those essential principles by which the ultimate direction or purpose of our lives are determined, all other choices are irrelevant. Without values, all choices are reduced to impulse based on immediate impression and passion, all objectives are short-term and range-of-the-moment, and all action is futile beyond immediate consequences.
Like all truth, values are not dictated or decided, they must be discovered and understood. Values do not depend on how many people believe in them, who said they are values, or how long they have been believed. Values are determined by reality and the nature of the beings for whom the good is being defined.
By individualism we refer to the fact that knowledge, choice, consequences, and values pertain only to individuals.
Minds exist one to an individual. Knowledge is gained only by individuals using their own minds to carry out the process of reason by which they understand and learn. Knowledge cannot be transferred from one mind to another. The process of teaching requires one individual to explain what they know to another individual who must use their own mind and reasoning to understand what is being explained to them.
By the individual, we mean you.
Until you have come to understand something by your own reason, it is not knowledge. Another may teach you, by explaining what they know, but it is not your knowledge until you understand it. You can never know if another has reasoned correctly unless you, yourself, understand the process of reason used to reach the conclusion.
Your choices must be based on your knowledge or lack of it, and you must bare the consequences of your choices. No matter what someone else knows, or how much they know, if you base your choices on anything other than your own knowledge, you can never be certain you are making correct choices. Not only can you never be sure that another's presumed knowledge is the result of correct reason (because you don't know what the reasoning is) no one else can ever know as much about you as you do. No one else ever has enough knowledge to know what is best for you. Ultimately, you must bare the consequences of your choices, whether based on your own knowledge, or the word of another on the basis of their presumed authority.
Finally, good pertains only to individuals. This means if it is not good for you it is not good. If questions like, what about the good of society? the family? my neighbors? mankind? etc. come to your mind, it is because you have been influenced by the evil principle of collectivism. The primary error of collectivism is the false teaching that there can be conflicts in values. There can be nothing which is truly good for you which is not also good for society, your family, your neighbors, and mankind. Any supposed good that is bad for anyone else is based on an immoral ethic which believes the world is paradoxical, that there are contradictions in truth, and that evil is a positive, or that irrational behavior can actually be a good to the individual. It is the ethic of the thief and moocher who believe that the good is produced by some mystic force and is of fixed quantity and that any good that any one individual enjoys automatically deprives someone else of that good.
This is So Hard
Reality is ruthless and truth is hard. There is no way to escape it. You must make choices, and not just some choices, but every moment of your life about everything you will ever do. If you choose wrong, you will at least suffer. If you choose very wrong you will die. To choose right you must have knowledge. To choose right you must have values. To have knowledge you must study. To have values you must think. If you are to have enough knowledge to make right choices, you will have to study hard, and not just for a while, but for the rest of your life. If you are going to have values that will enable you to choose right, you will have to think hard, and you will have to work hard to ever improve your thinking skills.
When you have learned enough to know how to make some right choices, the first choice you must make is how to survive in this world. You must work to produce what you will require to live and enjoy your life. You must work hard, and can never stop working.
Then... but that is enough for now. This is only an introduction. But there is a question that may have occurred to you, "isn't there an easier way?" The answer, surprisingly, is yes. In fact there are many easier ways. In fact almost any other way is easier.
Almost everyone chooses an easier way, too. Instead of learning the true nature of reality, they fake it. Instead of seeking the truth, they seek whatever works, any shortcut, gimmick, or trick that will get them what they think they want right now. They don't think too hard, they leave that to the experts or whatever authority they have decided to follow rather than think for themselves. They concentrate on what they like, what's fun. They don't bother learning hard things, like principles with which they can understand the nature of the world they live in. They learn what they can use to impress or deceive people, or to win games.
That's it, isn't it? Learn to be a winner. Life's just a game, isn't it? So why should you work hard. If you're lucky, you won't have to work hard.
Of course there are easier ways, millions of easier ways. If you would prefer an easier way, you may take it, and be instructed by your experience where the easier way leads, which inevitably is your own destruction and that of others. If you would prefer an easier way, you need not read further.
The autonomist does not consider for a moment whether the course he has chosen is easy or not. The autonomist seeks, above all other things, the truth. Is the way hard? So be it, so long as it is the truth that leads him.
Reality is not the autonomist's adversary, it is everything and all there is. To reject reality is to reject everything and all there is. To snub the truth is to turn away reality's only angel.
Every man is autonomous, whether he chooses to be or not. The autonomist chooses to be, and chooses all that means. He chooses to think, to learn, to work, because the joy of life, happiness, itself, is thinking, learning, and working. This is what he is, what else could possibly make a man happy but being, by intention and full determination, what he actually is.