Children and the Limits of Paternalism

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (3):581-595 (2017)

Abstract
Philosophers disagree about what precisely makes an act paternalistic, and about whether, when, and why paternalistic acts are morally objectionable. Despite these disagreements, it might seem uncontroversial to think that it is permissible to paternalize children. When paternalism seems morally objectionable, that is usually because an adult has been treated in a way that seems appropriate only for children. But, we might think, there can be nothing morally objectionable about treating children as children. In this paper, however, I argue that there are limits to how we may permissibly paternalize children. I begin in Section 1 by describing and endorsing Jonathan Quong’s account of paternalism, which defines paternalistic acts as those that involve particular kinds of judgments that the paternalizer makes about the capacities of the paternalizee. In Section 2, I identify a distinction between two kinds of paternalism: ‘compensatory’ paternalism, and ‘non-compensatory’ paternalism. In Section 3, I argue that compensatory paternalism is usually permissible in the case of children. In section 4, I argue that non-compensatory paternalism is much harder to justify than compensatory paternalism, and because of this, it is sometimes impermissible even when directed at children.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-017-9804-3
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References found in this work BETA

The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.
Paternalism.Gerald Dworkin - 1972 - The Monist 56 (1):64-84.
Rational Persuasion as Paternalism.George Tsai - 2014 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 42 (1):78-112.

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