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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L069-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Restriction of people’s liberty of action is paternalistic when it is imposed for the good of those whose liberty is restricted and against their will. The argument in favour of paternalism is that, if one can prevent people from harming themselves, there is no reason not to do so. Versions of the ethical creed of liberalism tend to oppose paternalism. One argument is that as a practical matter the policy of permitting paternalism tends to do more harm than good in the long run, or at least less good than a strict refusal to countenance paternalism would achieve. Another argument appeals to a right of autonomy which paternalism is held to violate whether or not its consequences on the whole are undesirable. Paternalist advocacy can be ‘hard’ or ‘soft’; soft paternalism is the doctrine that paternalism can only be justifiable when the individual action that is being restricted was not chosen in a substantially voluntary way.

Citing this article:
Arneson, Richard. Paternalism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L069-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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