Paternalism and our rational powers

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According to rational will views of paternalism, the wrongmaking feature of paternalism is that paternalists disregard or fail to respect the rational will of the paternalized, in effect substituting their own presumably superior judgments about what ends the paternalized ought to pursue or how they ought to pursue them. Here I defend a version of the rational will view appealing to three rational powers that constitute rational agency, which I call recognition, discrimination, and satisfaction. By appealing to these powers, my version of the rational will view can rank the wrongfulness of paternalistic acts in terms of (a) the extent to which such acts amount to supplanting the paternalized individual’s identity as a rational agent with that of the paternalist, and (b) the degree of mistrust in the paternalized individual's rational agency shown by the paternalistic act. My rational powers account thus provides a more complete account of why paternalism is a powerful, but not decisive or absolute, objection to an act or policy. My rational powers account also provides powerful explanations of why rational suasion deflects charges of paternalism; why consenting to intercessions in one’s rational agency negates paternalism; why strong paternalism is generally more objectionable than weak paternalism; and why hard paternalism is generally more objectionable than soft paternalism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-153
Issue number501
Early online date30 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


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