Epistemic Paternalism, Personal Sovereignty, and One’s Own Good

In Amiel Bernal & Guy Axtell (eds.), Epistemic Paternalism Reconsidered: Conceptions, Justifications and Implications. Lanham, Md: Rowman & LIttlefield. pp. 155-168 (2020)
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Abstract

A recent paper by Bullock (2018) raises a dilemma for proponents of epistemic paternalism. If epistemic paternalists contend that epistemic improvements contribute to one’s wellbeing, then their view conflates with general paternalism. Instead, if they appeal to the notion of a distinctive epistemic value, their view is unjustified, in that concerns about epistemic value fail to outweigh concerns about personal sovereignty. In this chapter, I address Bullock’s challenge in a way that safeguards the legitimacy of epistemic paternalism, albeit restricting its scope to a limited range of cognitive projects. After shedding light on a problem with how Bullock singles out cases to which the dilemma applies, I argue that there is at least one reasonable way of interpreting the notion of ‘personal autonomy’ which legitimates and justifies undertaking epistemically paternalistic interferences for one’s epistemic good.

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Michel Croce
Università degli Studi di Genova

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