Mill I do not want to go along with a volunteer basis. I think a fellow should be compelled to become better and not let him use his discretion whether he wants to get smarter, more healthy or more honest. General Hershey I take as my starting point the "one very simply principle" proclaimed by Mill On Liberty That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.
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Related Entries 1. Introduction The government requires people to contribute to a pension system Social Security. It requires motorcyclists to wear helmets.
It forbids people from swimming at a public beach when lifeguards are not present. It forbids the sale of various drugs deemed to be ineffective. It forbids the sale of various drugs believed to be harmful. It does not allow consent to certain forms of assault to be a defense against prosecution for that assault. The civil law does not allow the enforcement of certain kinds of contracts, e. It requires minors to have blood transfusions even if their religious beliefs forbid it.
Persons may be civilly committed if they are a danger to themselves. Doctors do not tell their patients the truth about their medical condition. A physician may tell the wife of a man whose car went off a bridge into the water and drowned that he died instantly when in fact he died a rather ghastly death. A husband may hide the sleeping pills from a depressed wife. A philosophy department may require a student to take logic courses.
A teacher may be less than honest about telling a student that he has little philosophical ability. All of these rules, policies, and actions may be done for various reasons; may be justified by various considerations.
When they are justified solely on the grounds that the person affected would be better off, or would be less harmed, as a result of the rule, policy, etc.
As the examples indicate the question of paternalism is one that arises in many different areas of our personal and public life. As such, it is an important realm of applied ethics. But it also raises certain theoretical issues. Perhaps the most important is: what powers it is legitimate for a state, operating both coercively and in terms of incentives, to possess?
It also raises questions about the proper ways in which individuals, either in an institutional or purely personal setting, should relate to one another. How should we think about individual autonomy and its limits? What is it to respect the personhood of others? What is the trade-off, if any, between regard for the welfare of another and respect for their right to make their own decisions? This entry examines some of the conceptual issues involved in analyzing paternalism, and then discusses the normative issues concerning the legitimacy of paternalism by the state and various civil institutions.
Conceptual Issues The analysis of paternalism involves at least the following elements. It involves some kind of limitation on the freedom or autonomy of some agent and it does so for a particular class of reasons.
As with many other concepts used in normative debate determining the exact boundaries of the concept is a contested issue. And as often is the case the first question is whether the concept itself is normative or descriptive.
Is application of the concept a matter for empirical determination, so that if two people disagree about the application to a particular case they are disagreeing about some matter of fact or of definition? Or does their disagreement reflect different views about the legitimacy of the application in question? While it is clear that for some to characterize a policy as paternalistic is to condemn or criticize it, that does not establish that the term itself is an evaluative one.
As a matter of methodology it is preferable to see if some concept can be defined in non-normative terms and only if that fails to capture the relevant phenomena to accept a normative definition.
I suggest the following conditions as an analysis of X acts paternalistically towards Y by doing omitting Z: Z or its omission interferes with the liberty or autonomy of Y. X does so without the consent of Y. X does so only because X believes Z will improve the welfare of Y where this includes preventing his welfare from diminishing , or in some way promote the interests, values, or good of Y.
Condition one is the trickiest to capture. Clear cases include threatening bodily compulsion, lying, withholding information that the person has a right to have, or imposing requirements or conditions. But what about the following case? A father, skeptical about the financial acumen of a child, instead of bequeathing the money directly, gives it to another child with instructions to use it in the best interests of the first child.
The first child has no legal claim on the inheritance. Or consider the case of a wife who hides her sleeping pills so that her potentially suicidal husband cannot use them. Her act may satisfy the second and third conditions but what about the first? Does her action limit the liberty or autonomy of her husband? The second condition is supposed to be read as distinct from acting against the consent of an agent. The agent may neither consent nor not consent.
He may, for example, be unaware of what is being done to him. There is also the distinct issue of whether one acts not knowing about the consent of the person in question. Perhaps the person in fact consents but this is not known to the paternaliser. The third condition also can be complicated. There may be more than one reason for interfering with Y. Or what about the case where a legislature passes a legal rule for paternalistic reasons but there are sufficient non-paternalistic reasons to justify passage of the rule?
If, in order to decide on any of the above issues, one must decide a normative issue, e. Ultimately the question of how to refine the conditions, and what conditions to use, is a matter for philosophical judgment. One should decide upon an analysis based on a hypothesis of what will be most useful for thinking about a particular range of problems.
One might adopt one analysis in the context of doctors and patients and another in the context of whether the state should ban unhealthy foods. Given some particular analysis of paternalism there will be various normative views about when paternalism is justified.
The following terminology is useful. If he knows, and wants to, say, commit suicide he must be allowed to proceed. A hard paternalist says that, at least sometimes, it may be permissible to prevent him from crossing the bridge even if he knows of its condition.
We are entitled to prevent voluntary suicide. A broad paternalist is concerned with any paternalistic action: state, institutional hospital policy , or individual. So if a person really prefers safety to convenience then it is legitimate to force them to wear seatbelts. A strong paternalist believes that people may have mistaken, confused or irrational ends and it is legitimate to interfere to prevent them from achieving those ends. If a person really prefers the wind rustling through their hair to increased safety it is legitimate to make them wear helmets while motorcycling because their ends are irrational or mistaken.
If one is a weak but not a strong paternalist we may only interfere with mistakes about the facts not with mistakes about values. So if a person tries to jump out of a window believing he will float gently to the ground we may restrain him. If he jumps because he believes that it is important to be spontaneous we may not.
The group we are trying to protect is the group of consumers not manufacturers who may not be smokers at all. Our reason for interfering with the manufacturer is that he is causing harm to others. Nevertheless the basic justification is paternalist because the consumer consents assuming the relevant information is available to him to the harm.
It is not like the case where we prevent manufacturers from polluting the air. In pure paternalism the class being protected is identical with the class being interfered with, e.
In the case of impure paternalism the class of persons interfered with is larger than the class being protected. It is things like death or misery or painful emotional states which are in question. Sometimes, however, advocates of state intervention seek to protect the moral welfare of the person. So, for example, it may be argued that prostitutes are better off being prevented from plying their trade even if they make a decent living and their health is protected against disease.
The interference is justified, therefore, to promote the moral well-being of the person. This then can be called moral paternalism. Finally, it is important to distinguish paternalism, whether welfare or moral, from other ideas used to justify interference with persons; even cases where the interference is not justified in terms of protecting or promoting the interests of others.
In particular moral paternalism should be distinguished from legal moralism, i. Not because the dwarf is injured in any way, not because the dwarf corrupts himself by agreeing to participate in such activities, but simply because the activity is wrong.
To be sure it is not always easy to distinguish between legal moralism and moral paternalism. If one believes, as Plato does, that acting wrongly damages the soul of the agent, then it will be possible to invoke moral paternalism rather than legal moralism. Normative Issues Is there a burden of proof attached to paternalism? Does the paternalist or anti-paternalist have to give a reason for their action?
As we have seen the analysis of paternalism seems to cut both ways. It is an interference with liberty which might be thought to place the burden of proof on the paternalist.
It is an act intended to produce good for the agent which might be thought to place the burden of proof on those who object to paternalism. It might be thought, as Mill did, that the burden of proof is different depending on who is being treated paternalistically. If it is a child then the assumption is that, other things being equal, the burden of proof is on those who resist paternalism. If it is an adult of sound mind the presumption is reversed.
Suppose we start from the presumption that paternalism is wrong. The question becomes under what, if any, circumstances, can the presumption be overcome? Essentially it is the view that the fact that an act is intended to be beneficial for a person, and does not affect or violate the interests of others, settles the question of whether it may be done.
Only a view which ignores the means by which good is promoted, and the ethical status of such means, can hold this. Any sensible view has to distinguish between good done to agents at their request or with their consent, and good thrust upon them against their will. So the normative options seem to be just two.
See Article History Paternalism, attitude and practice that are commonly, though not exclusively, understood as an infringement on the personal freedom and autonomy of a person or class of persons with a beneficent or protective intent. Paternalism generally involves competing claims between individual liberty and authoritative social control. Questions concerning paternalism also may include both the claims of individual rights and social protections and the legal and socially legitimated means of satisfying those claims. The discursive use of the term paternalism is almost exclusively negative, employed to diminish specific policies or practices by presenting them in opposition to individual freedom.
Close mobile search navigation Article navigation. Nudging uses the clever tricks of modern psychology and economics to manipulate people. X does so only because X believes Z will improve the welfare of Y where this includes preventing his welfare from diminishingor in some way promote the interests, values, or good of Y. The usual justification for paternalism refers to the interests of the person being interfered with. Perhaps people perceive a process as manipulative only if they already disapprove of it for other reasons. Essentially it is the view that the fact that an act is intended to be beneficial for a person, and does not affect or violate the interests of others, settles the question of whether it may be done. This article has no associated abstract.