What is autonomous decision making? That is a real challenge for many people, especially non-philosophers, to make sense of. However, I think that there is a relatively simple formula to determine whether or not we are making autonomous decisions.
In order to make autonomous decisions, we must determine what our beliefs, values, and desires are, and we must act on the basis of these beliefs, values and desires consistently. These beliefs, desires and values are usually defining aspects of our characters and personalities, making us who we truly are.
Once we determine what our beliefs, values and desires are, we must act consistently on the basis of such beliefs and desires. The more consistently we act on such beliefs and desires, the more autonomously will we be acting. The less consistently we act on the basis of such beliefs and desires, the less autonomously we will be acting.
A big part of acting autonomously is knowing our characters and personalities. For instance, are we honest by nature or do we lie by nature? Are we compassionate or is that something difficult for us? Are we generous by nature or do we have to work at being this way? Do we love unconditionally or do we have to work at that?
In other words, whatever arises spontaneously and naturally while we act is probably something that we are endowed with. For instance, if we act compassionately without much effort, we are probably compassionate. If we act honestly without working hard at being honest, we are probably honest by nature. However, if we are dishonest by nature, we are probably dishonest by nature.
Acting autonomously means acting on the basis of character traits and personality features that come to us naturally and that we are endowed with at birth. As long as we act on the basis of our naturally endowed features, we will be acting autonomously.
What if we aren't happy with our naturally endowed characters? What if when we reflect on our beliefs and values we discover that we want our characters to be better? Since this is a very difficult topic to answer quickly, I will reflect on that in my next blog entry.