The Necessity of Autonomy (Free Will) in Society
“Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.” John Stuart Mill explicitly describes the necessity of autonomy or free will in society to insure the happiness of all. From this perspective one can recognize that autonomy should not only be unconditionally allowed, but also as an aspect of man that was developed along with the ability to reason. In accordance with the natural evolution of man as a rationale being, to limit one’s autonomy would be to deny the very ability that has allowed man’s development to occur. Although the topic of autonomy is prevalent in the field of psychology, the ramifications of limits to, spread throughout all aspects of society as a whole.
There have been criticisms to the necessity of autonomy from the beginning of philosophical thought. However, it can be recognized that these criticisms are often developed with a limited viewpoint. One such critic, B.F. Skinner who stressed the influence of the environment over the individual, argued against autonomy from that particular view. Skinner stated, “It is clear now that we must take into account what the environment does to an organism not only before but after it responds. Behavior is shaped and maintained by its consequences.” Although one can understandably recognize the influence of an individual’s environment over their actions, many react to situations as needed. However, this idea does not prove to give support to the negation of importance of autonomy. In fact, because the individual does interact with the environment, the need for individual freedom in making choices because inherent.
In addition, Mill supported the belief that, “Each is the proper guardian of his own heath, whether bodily or mental and spiritual.” Therefore, by limiting autonomy the assumption would have to be made that the individual no longer has the ability to be the guardian of themselves. This concept can not be universally applied; independent of the structure of government in a particular society, because of the agreement that man is a rational being.
With the negation of autonomy, comes the negation of reason and responsibility of man. Despite any argument for the need for control over society through limitations of...