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The Normative Core of Paternalism
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
2007 (English)In: Res Publica, ISSN 1356-4765, E-ISSN 1572-8692, Vol. 13, no 4, 441-458 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The philosophical debate on paternalism is conducted as if the property of being paternalistic should be attributed to actions. Actions are typically deemed to be paternalistic if they amount to some kind of interference with a person and if the rationale for the action is the good of the person interfered with. This focus on actions obscures the normative issues involved. In particular, it makes it hard to provide an analysis of the traditional liberal resistance to paternalism. Given the fact that actions most often have mixed rationales, it is not clear how we should categorize and evaluate interfering actions for which only part of the rationale is the good of the person. The preferable solution is to attribute the property of being paternalistic not to actions, but to compounds of reasons and actions. The framework of action–reasons provides the tools for distinguishing where exactly paternalism lies in the complex web of reasons and actions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer , 2007. Vol. 13, no 4, 441-458 p.
Keyword [en]
actions - action-reasons - anti-paternalism - harm to others - interference - paternalism - reasons
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10940DOI: 10.1007/s11158-007-9036-9Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-36648998969OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-10940DiVA: diva2:232972
Note
QC 20100714Available from: 2009-08-27 Created: 2009-08-27 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Anti-paternalism and Public Health Policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Anti-paternalism and Public Health Policy
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is an attempt to constructively interpret and critically evaluate the liberal doctrine that we may not limit a person’s liberty for her own good, and to discuss its implications and alternatives in some concrete areas of public health policy. The thesis starts theoretical and goes ever more practical. The first paper is devoted to positive interpretation of anti-paternalism with special focus on the reason component – personal good. A novel generic definition of paternalism is proposed, intended to capture, in a generous fashion, the object of traditional liberal resistance to paternalism – the invocation of personal good reasons for limiting of or interfering with a person’s liberty. In the second paper, the normative aspect of this resistance is given a somewhat technical interpretation in terms of invalidation of reasons – the blocking of reasons from influencing the moral status of actions according to their strength. It is then argued that normative anti-paternalism so understood is unreasonable, on three grounds: 1) Since the doctrine only applies to sufficiently voluntary action, voluntariness determines validity of reasons, which is unwarranted and leads to wrong answers to moral questions. 2) Since voluntariness comes in degrees, a threshold must be set where personal good reasons are invalidated, leading to peculiar jumps in the justifiability of actions. 3) Anti-paternalism imposes an untenable and unhelpful distinction between the value of respecting choices that are sufficiently voluntary and choices that are not. The third paper adds to this critique the fourth argument that none of the action types typically proposed to specify the action component of paternalism is such that performing an action of that type out of benevolence is essentially morally problematic. The fourth paper ignores the critique in the second and third papers and proposes, in an anti-paternalistic spirit, a series of rules for the justification of option-restricting policies aimed at groups where some members consent to the policy and some do not. Such policies present the liberal with a dilemma where the value of not restricting people’s options without their consent conflicts with the value of allowing people to shape their lives according to their own wishes. The fifth paper applies the understanding of anti-paternalism developed in the earlier papers to product safety regulation, as an example of a public health policy area. The sixth paper explores in more detail a specific public health policy, namely that of mandatory alcohol interlocks in all cars, proposed by the former Swedish government and supported by the Swedish National Road Administration. The policy is evaluated for cost-effectiveness, for possible diffusion of individual responsibility, and for paternalistic treatment of drivers. The seventh paper argues for a liberal policy in the area of dissemination of information about uncertain threats to public health. The argument against paternalism is based on common sense consequentialist considerations, avoiding any appeal to the normative anti-paternalism rejected earlier in the thesis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2009. viii, 38 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
Keyword
Alcohol Interlocks; Altruism; Anti-paternalism; Epistemic paternalism; Group consent; Harm principle; Interference; Invalidation of reasons; Liberalism; Limiting liberty; Private sphere; Product safety regulation; Public health policy; Reason-actions; Self-regarding; Social responsibility; Uncertain information; Withholding of information.
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10947 (URN)978-91-7415-226-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-09-08, F3, Lindstedtsv. 26, KTH, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100714Available from: 2009-08-27 Created: 2009-08-27 Last updated: 2010-07-14Bibliographically approved

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