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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 11, 2017

Paternalism and Evaluative Shift

Ben Davies


Many people feel that respecting a person’s autonomy is not sufficiently important to obligate us to stay out of their affairs in all cases; but the ground for interference may often turn out to be a hunch that the agent cannot really be competent, or cannot really know what her decision implies; for if she were both of these things, surely she would not make such a foolish decision. This paper suggests a justification of paternalism that does not rely on such appeals. I argue that in cases where an agent will undergo a significant alteration in their evaluative outlook – ‘evaluative shift’ – three central, persuasive objections to paternalism lose their force, and offer a prima facie case for paternalism in some of these cases. I then suggest that we can extend this argument to some cases where evaluative alteration is not predictable, but where the risk and harm are both significant. In such cases, paternalism may be justified.


My thanks to Jake Wojtowicz and two anonymous reviewers for their feedback on this paper.


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Published Online: 2017-1-11
Published in Print: 2017-11-27

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