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Moral Philosophy and Politics

Editor-in-Chief: Schefczyk, Michael

Managing Editor: Schmidt-Petri, Christoph

Ed. by Meyer, Lukas Heinrich / Peacock, Mark / Schaber, Peter

CiteScore 2018: 0.41

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.565

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Paternalism and Evaluative Shift

Ben Davies
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  • Department of Philosophy, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, 400 East Second Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815, USA
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Published Online: 2017-01-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mopp-2016-0013


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.

Keywords: paternalism; autonomy; liberalism


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Published Online: 2017-01-11

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Citation Information: Moral Philosophy and Politics, Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 325–346, ISSN (Online) 2194-5624, ISSN (Print) 2194-5616, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mopp-2016-0013.

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