Saturday, November 18, 2023

Autonomy and God

We have much in the way of autonomy rights against other people. Do we have autonomy rights against ourselves? I think so. There are ways of constraining our future selves that are contrary to our dignity.

Here is a thesis I find plausible:

  1. We have no autonomy rights against God.

Of course, and importantly, God has reasons for action based on the value of our autonomy. But I think it’s still true that these reasons are not going to be conclusive in the way that they would be if we had autonomy rights. (They might be conclusive in some other way, say if God promised us autonomy in some area. I take it that a right to have a promise fulfilled is not an autonomy right, perhaps pace Kant.)

Claim (1) seems to be a thesis about God’s authority. It paints a picture of God as an authoritarian being with infinite normative power, and the picture is not so attractive to modern sensibilities.

But I think there is a different way of thinking and feeling about (1). We can, instead, think of (1) as consequence of the ways that

  1. God is infinitely close to me—closer than I am to myself.

There are many ways in which I am “not that close to myself”. I am ignorant of much that goes on in me, even in my mind. I don’t love myself as much as I should. My future is murky and my past is fading. And, above all, I don’t have being in myself, but being by participation in another, God. God is closer to me than I am to myself. And a consequence of this closeness is that I have even less in the way of autonomy rights against God than I do against myself.

Related to (1) is an interesting hypothesis. Everyone agrees:

  1. God has infinite power.

It intuitively sounds plausible that:

  1. God has infinite normative power.

I am not sure what exactly (4) means, or how it is true. But doesn’t it sound right?

1 comment:

Walter Van den Acker said...

It sounds like 'Might makes right' to me.
And if God were closer to me then I am to myself then God would be me. If we have libertarian free Will, we can make decisions that God cannot make for us.