In Ruth Chadwick (ed.), Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. Academic Press (2011)
Paternalism means, roughly, benevolent interference: benevolent because it aims at promoting or protecting a person’s good; interference because it restricts his liberty without his consent. The paternalist believes herself superior in that she can secure some benefit for the person that he himself will not secure. Paternalism is opposed by the liberal tradition, at least when it targets sufficiently voluntary behavior. In legal contexts, policies may be paternalistic for some and not for others, forcing trade-offs. In medical contexts, paternalism can be an open or hidden aspect of the relationship between caregiver and patient.
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