Antipaternalism as a Filter on Reasons

In Thomas Schramme (ed.), New Perspectives on Paternalism and Health Care. Springer Verlag (2015)
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I first distinguish four types of objection to paternalism and argue that only one – the principled objection – amounts to a substantive and distinct normative doctrine. I then argue that this doctrine should be understood as preventing certain facts from playing the role of reasons they would otherwise play. I explain how this filter approach makes antipaternalism independent of several philosophical controversies: On the role reasons play, on what reasons there are, and on how reasons are related to values. I go on to contrast the filter approach with the competing and dominant action-focused approach, which understands objections to paternalism in terms of paternalistic action, behavior, law, policy and the like. Seana Shiffrin and Peter de Marneffe are singled out as prominent recent proponents of this approach. By engaging with their definitions of paternalism, I explain how the action-focused approach makes antipaternalism dependent on the sorting of actions into paternalistic and nonpaternalistic according to what reasons support them. Because one and the same action can be supported by many different reasons, and by different sorts of reasons, such sorting is very difficult. The upshot is that antipaternalism on the action-focused account fails to provide the precise normative implications of the filter approach that I favor.

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Kalle Grill
Umeå University


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