What does it mean to be autonomous in America? What does it mean to be told you have autonomy over your life given America’s insistence that its citizen subject is responsible for adhering to the emancipatory principles of the self-determination it has been granted? Or, asked differently, what does it mean to be autonomous based on the socially constructed terms of subjection setting you free to think for yourself and live a life of your own design providing you make the principled claim on yourself?
These questions of meaning ask for a philosophic response. The unique and powerful philosophy of Arnold Siegel focuses on describing the impact that being an American has on our being in possession of ourselves. He offers this philosophy to assist the student who wishes to engage in this inquiry and seriously take up the practice of regulative virtue.
This philosophy amounts to a network of signifiers, thus, a unique space of signification that we employ to initiate a quiet revolution in what it means to be autonomous in America. Its uniqueness is to be found in the description it provides for the terms of our responsible self-rule, the socially constructed behavior emerging from America’s constitutionally supported experiment in autonomous subjectivity. This is the citizen-subject realizing itself in the self-consciously observed responsible exercise of the autonomous self together with its principled ego-function, i.e. its independent agency, moral personage and biographical entrepreneurship.
Siegel introduces this philosophy to the student even as it, in its protean fashion, engages with the practical facts and values commensurate with the situations in which it finds itself, the naturally, historically and linguistically integrated reality that won’t bend to its will nor yield to its wishfulness. He hopes to persuade the student to ground its self-regulative responsibility in the emancipatory mechanism America gives it to manage its life. This includes accepting the revisioning of its dualist conception of ego. This acceptance is crucial because the student has been raised and schooled to believe in a specious concept of its existence, one constituted partially by its ego whose mysterious properties of mind lay in a metaphysical foundation.
Siegel's aim is to help the student recognize that its generative grammar is internal and central to its regulative mechanism rather than foundational and external to it. In turn, the student is asked to resist the allure of its insatiable egoism and to distrust this egoism as the prime motivator of its life. Instead, the student learns to accept its revisioned ego-function and the breadth and depth of its personal resources for tolerating the demands of its subjection. Said differently, the student accepts the particular operative circumstances wherein it can meet the demand for its causal efficacy without compromising its self-regulative responsibility.
The student is also asked by Siegel to use its capacity for self-criticism and creativity to modulate its misguided reliance on its dualist ego together with its flights of fancy, delusions of grandeur and rationalized permissiveness. At the same time, he hopes to help the student gain an uncommon confidence in its revisioned ego-function and realize a life of fulfillment, satisfaction and equanimity earned from adhering to its self-regulative responsibility for the biographical, moral and independent demonstration of its individuating emancipation.