node created 2019/09/29
The exterior things touch the soul in no way. They have no access to it and neither can change the mood of the soul nor move it. Rather it gives itself its mood and movement, and according to its judgements that it makes about its own dignity, it also values the exterior objects higher or lower.
For two millennia the idea of getting a job was regarded as a fundamental attack against basic human rights and human dignity. Why? Because getting a job means accepting servitude to a master. It means saying, 'Okay, I'll rent myself to you for most of my waking life and I will follow your orders during this period.' That was considered an utter abomination. By now it's sort of taken for granted. But should we take it for granted? Or should we go back to the ideals of working people, classical liberals, Cicero, all the way to Abraham Lincoln, saying that this is not a decent way for human beings to live, that people should be in control of their own work and their own destiny. One of the founders of classical liberalism, Wilhelm von Humboldt, captured the point very lucidly. He said, suppose an artisan creates a beautiful object on command, in a job. We may admire what he did, but we despise what he is: a tool in the hands of others. That was common belief right through the nineteenth century. We now accept that renting yourself into servitude is one of the highest goals in life – an idea that would have been an abomination for 2000 years.
The type of personal integration we attain – or the effective lack thereof – depends on what possibilities our life situation offers us for the development of autonomy. It is a distorted development that is the root cause of the pathological and, ultimately, evil element in human beings.

The struggle for autonomy heightens our aliveness. Insofar as the socialization process blocks autonomy, however, this process engenders the evil it attempts to prevent. If parental love is so distorted that it demands submission and dependence for its self-confirmation, social adjustment turns into a test of obedience and the child’s efforts to comply bring with them the loss of genuine feelings. The human being then becomes the true source of evil.
"The Betrayal of the Self: The Fear of Autonomy in Men and Women"
What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish?
The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.
I have spoken here of what ought and ought not to be done, of what is morally repugnant, and of what is dangerous. I am, of course, aware of the fact that these judgements of mine have themselves no moral force except on myself. Nor, as I have already said, do I have any intention of telling other people what tasks they should and should not undertake. I urge them only to consider the consequences of what they do do. And here I mean not only, not even primarily, the direct consequences of their actions on the world about them. I mean rather the consequences on themselves, as they construct their rationalizations, as they repress the truths that urge them to different courses, and as they chip away at their own autonomy. That so many people ask what they must do is a sign that the order of being and doing has become inverted. Those who know who and what they are do not need to ask what they should do. And those who must ask will not be able to stop asking until they begin to look inside themselves. It it is everyone's task to show by example what questions one can ask of oneself, and to show that one can live with the few answers there are.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation" (1976)