AUTONOMY AND INDOCTRINATION: WHY WE NEED AN EMOTIONAL CONDITION FOR AUTONOMOUS REASONING AND REFLECTIVE ENDORSEMENT
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 September 2019
I argue that none of the main accounts of autonomy in the literature can explain the fact that people who undergo a certain subtle but powerful kind of indoctrination are not autonomous or self-governing in reflectively acquiring and endorsing the views, values, goals, and practical commitments that they are successfully indoctrinated to adopt. I suggest that, assuming there are historical conditions on autonomous reasoning and reflective endorsement, there is a condition that specifically concerns emotions: the person’s emotional state and dispositions, and her web of emotional dependencies. I explain what we know so far about the kind of indoctrination on which I focus, and I motivate the claim that people who are successfully indoctrinated in this way are not self-governed in reflectively acquiring and endorsing even the first views and values that they adopt as a result of indoctrination. I argue that this heteronomy is not explained by any of the accounts that postulate historical conditions on autonomy: neither by classical accounts such as Rousseau’s and Piaget’s, nor by so-called historical accounts in the contemporary literature, nor by relational accounts. I argue that an accurate account of autonomy must include an emotional condition on autonomous reasoning and reflective endorsement that goes beyond the emotional conditions postulated or implied by historical accounts, and I offer a tentative sketch of this condition.
- Research Article
- Social Philosophy and Policy , Volume 36 , Issue 1 , Summer 2019 , pp. 192 - 210
- Copyright © Social Philosophy and Policy Foundation 2019
I am grateful for very useful comments on previous drafts, to Randolph Clarke, Stephen Kearns, Michael McKenna, Al Mele, John Schwenkler, an anonymous referee for Social Philosophy and Policy, the other contributors to this volume, and participants at Antwerp University’s Center for Philosophical Psychology’s workshop on work in progress. I am especially thankful to Michael McKenna and the anonymous referee for Social Philosophy and Policy, whose extensive and thoughtful comments made me significantly change this essay.
1 This view is not uncommon. See, for instance, Bratman, Michael, “Autonomy and Hierarchy,” Social Philosophy and Policy 20, no. 2 (2003): 156–76, andCrossRefGoogle Scholar Westlund, Andrea C., “Rethinking Relational Autonomy,” Hypatia 24, no. 4 (2009): 26–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
2 Thanks to an anonymous referee for Social Philosophy and Policy, for an extensive and illuminating report that made me realize that I should leave this topic out of this essay.
4 Note that, on this approach, not all doctrines are supposed to be accepted through critical examination. Learning mathematical and chemical doctrines from testimony, say just through repetition and without critical scrutiny, is not considered indoctrination, presumably because critical scrutiny should not be involved in learning these doctrines for the first time. Thanks to Stephen Kearns, Manolo Martínez, and Nick Wiltsher for pushing me to clarify this.
5 Alex Schmid provides the most thorough review I know of the empirical literature on this subject. See Alex P. Schmid, “Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation: A Conceptual Discussion and Literature Review,” ICCT – The Hague Research Papers (The Hague: International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 2013): 26. See also Bouzar, Dounia, “A Novel Motivation-based Conceptual Framework for Disengagement and De-radicalization Programs,” Sociology and Anthropology 5, no. 8 (2017): 600–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
6 Bouzar, “A Novel Motivation-based Conceptual Framework for Disengagement and De-radicalization Programs,” 606.
7 Ibid., 606.
8 Ibid., 606–7.
9 Ibid., 607.
10 Ibid., 607–8.
11 Ibid., 608.
12 Ibid., 608–9.
13 Ibid., 609.
14 Ibid., 609.
15 Ibid., 603–4.
16 Ibid., 603–5.
17 Ibid., 604.
18 Thanks to Stephen Kearns and Michael McKenna for pushing me to clarify this point.
19 Cited by Bouzar, “A Novel Motivation-based Conceptual Framework for Disengagement and De-radicalization Programs,” 604.
20 See Schmid, “Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation.”
21 Bouzar, “A Novel Motivation-based Conceptual Framework for Disengagement and De-radicalization Programs,” 602.
22 Bouzar, Dounia and Martin, Marie, “Méthode Expérimental de Déradicalisation: Quelles Strategies Emotionelles et Cognitives?” Pouvoirs 158 (2016): 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
23 Bouzar, “A Novel Motivation-based Conceptual Framework for Disengagement and De-radicalization Programs,” 602–3.
25 See also Bouzar and Martin, “Methode de Deradicalisation: Quelles Stragegies Emotionelles et Cognitives?”
26 Despite all this reasoning on the part of converts, it seems natural to refer to the techniques used by ISIS as indoctrination, and they are indeed called “indoctrination” in studies by governments, armies, and counterterrorism centers around the world. Of course, this doesn’t settle the question of whether or not these techniques count as indoctrination in some specific philosophical sense that might be defined, or the question of whether or not these techniques, when successful, undermine autonomy. While I do claim that these techniques undermine autonomy, I do not claim that the fact that these youngsters are not autonomous in reflectively endorsing the relevant views, values, and commitments exempts them from blame for having these and being guided to action by them. I set aside in this essay the delicate question of their moral responsibility. This is why my discussion of the examples leaves aside several aspects of the agents’ histories and present conditions that may be relevant to determine their moral responsibility.
27 I do not believe, though, that the ideal of autonomy includes an emotional independence from others, nor an emotional detachment from the doctrines one believes and stands by.
28 See Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Emile, or Education (London and Toronto: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1921),Google Scholar originally published as Émile, ou de l’Éducation (Paris: Jean Néaulme, 1762).
29 See Piaget, Jean, Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child (New York: Penguin Books, 1971), originally published in 1969.Google Scholar
30 Thanks to Stephen Kearns for raising this objection.
31 Such as Fischer, John M. and Ravizza, Mark, Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998),CrossRefGoogle Scholar Haji, Ishtiyaque, Moral Appraisability: Puzzles, Proposals, and Perplexities (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998),Google Scholar Haji, Ishtiyaque and Cuypers, Stefaan E., Moral Responsibility, Authenticity, and Education (Routledge International Studies in the Philosophy of Education, Taylor and Francis, Kindle Edition, 2008),CrossRefGoogle Scholar Kane, Robert, The Significance of Free Will (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), andGoogle Scholar Mele, Alfred, Autonomous Agents: From Self-Control to Autonomy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).Google Scholar
32 As I mentioned, I am leaving aside so-called nonhistorical accounts (such as Frankfurt, Harry G., “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” The Journal of Philosophy 68, no. 1 : 5–20, andCrossRefGoogle Scholar Watson, Gary, “Free Agency,” Journal of Philosophy 72 : 205–20),CrossRefGoogle Scholar which maintain that the formative history of a person’s psychological make-up is irrelevant to her present capacity for autonomous thought and action. Nonhistorical accounts imply that a person can choose and act autonomously driven by motives that were instilled in her through indoctrination, brainwashing, or any other kind of manipulation. Thus, these accounts do not rule out the indoctrination that concerns me, but they welcome the result that its victims are autonomous. As I explained, my argument is aimed at theorists who assume, like I do, that there are historical conditions on autonomy. Interestingly, though, the conditions of nonhistorical accounts do not rule out either the intuitively problematic way in which, as a result of the kind of indoctrination I am concerned with, emotional needs plausibly come to limit the possible results of particular episodes of reasoning, self-understanding, and practical deliberation, including the endorsement and rejection of desires as desires on which it would be good to act. And this might be considered a problem by nonhistorical theorists.
33 In addition, many incompatibilists (i.e., philosophers who claim that free will and physical determinism are incompatible) have argued that, for somebody to be morally responsible for having and acting on their beliefs, desires, goals, values, and so on, critical reflection must have made a difference to their present attitudes and tendencies, on an indeterministic reading of this expression. The question whether these incompatibilists are right is beyond the scope of this essay.
34 See Mele, Autonomous Agents: From Self-Control to Autonomy, Haji, Moral Appraisability: Puzzles, Proposals, and Perplexities, and Haji and Cuypers, Moral Responsibility, Authenticity, and Education.
35 See Mele, Autonomous Agents, and Haji, Moral Appraisability.
36 See Haji, Moral Appraisability.
37 See ibid.
38 See Kane, The Significance of Free Will, and Haji and Cuypers, Moral Responsibility, Authenticity, and Education.
39 See Haji, Moral Appraisability. As it turns out, Haji (120–21) argues that this kind of conditioning does not undermine autonomy, as long as it “leaves untouched [a successfully conditioned victim’s] capacities to become aware of his new deliberative habit, to reflect critically on it, and to counter its influence” (120). I do not share the intuitions about thought experiments on which Haji relies, and consequently I am not convinced by his argument. But in any case, as Haji points out, the techniques featured in this thought experiment “bypass [victims’] capacities for cognitive control over their own mental lives” (120). Successfully manipulated children acquire the target deliberative habits through conditioning, and not by assessing and endorsing the priorities they acquire.
40 For an influential definition of relational accounts along these lines, see MacKenzie, Catriona and Stoljar, Natalie, “Introduction: Autonomy Refigured,” in MacKenzie, Catriona and Stoljar, Natalie, eds., Relational Autonomy: Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 4.Google Scholar
41 Haji and Cuypers, in Moral Responsibility, Authenticity, and Education, say that they defend a “relational view of authenticity” (position 162), where “authenticity” means roughly what I mean by “autonomy” (see chap. 5). However, by “relational” they do not mean what I do, but rather, as they put it, “forward-looking” (position 688). They write: “ . . . we defend a relational view of authenticity according to which motivational (and other) springs of action are authentic or inauthentic only relative to whether later behavior that issues from these springs is behavior for which its agent is responsible” (positions 162–63).
42 Andrea C. Westlund, “Rethinking Relational Autonomy,” Hypatia 24, no. 4 (2009): 31.
43 Ibid., 33–40.
44 Ibid., 34.
45 Ibid., 34.
46 Ibid., 32.
47 Westlund uses self-governing policies in Bratman’s sense, namely personal policies concerning what weight to give to certain considerations in practical reasoning about one’s conduct. (See Bratman, Michael, “Autonomy and Hierarchy,” Social Philosophy and Policy 20, no. 2 : 156–76.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
48 Westlund, “Rethinking Relational Autonomy,” 33.
49 Ibid., 31–33.
50 Ibid., 32–33.
51 Ibid., 34.
52 Ibid., 35.
53 Ibid., 36, emphasis in the original.
54 Ibid., 37.
55 Thanks to Michael McKenna for pushing me to clarify this.
56 I thank Randolph Clarke, Stephen Kearns, and Michael McKenna for criticisms on a previous draft that motivated including this distinction and the paragraphs that follow.
57 See Frankfurt, Harry, Necessity, Volition, and Love (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999) for Frankfurt’s last version of this account.Google Scholar
58 See Westlund, “Rethinking Relational Autonomy,” 26–49.
59 See, for instance: Fischer and Ravizza, Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility; Haji, Moral Appraisability; and Mele, Autonomous Agents.
60 See, for instance, Benson, Paul, “Taking Ownership: Authority and Choice in Autonomous Agency,” in Christman, J. and Anderson, J., eds., Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 101–126, andCrossRefGoogle Scholar McLeod, Carolyn, Self-Trust and Reproductive Autonomy, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
61 See Paul, Laurie A., Transformative Experience (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar