Autonomy, slavery, and mill's critique of paternalism

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 4 (3):231-251 (2001)
Critics have charged that John Stuart Mill''s discussion as of paternalism in On Liberty is internally inconsistent, noting, for example, the numerous instances in which Mill explicitly endorses examples of paternalistic coercion. Similarly, commentators have noted an apparent contradiction between Mill''s political liberalism – according to which the state should be neutral among competing conceptions of the good – and Mill''s condemnation of non-autonomous ways of life, such as that of a servile wife. More generally, critics have argued that while Mill professes an allegiance to utilitarianism, he actually abandons it in favor of a view that values personal autonomy as the greatest intrinsic good. This paper presents an interpretation of Mill that provides a viable and consistent treatment of paternalism, thereby refuting each of the aforementioned critiques. Mill''s views, it argues, are consistently utilitarian. Moreover, the interpretation accounts for all of Mill''s departures from his otherwise blanket prohibition of paternalistic legislation. In particular, it explains his most notorious example, the condemnation of voluntary contracts for slavery. The interpretation emphasizes Mill''s conceptual linkage between autonomy and utility, noting his implicit use of at least three different senses of the notion of autonomy.
Keywords Mill  solidadridad  liberalismo  etica
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1023/A:1011891622148
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 35,471
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Paternalism, Part II.David J. Garren - 2007 - Philosophical Books 48 (1):50-59.
JS Mill on Coolie Labour and Voluntary Slavery.David Schwan - 2013 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4):754-766.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Getting Mill Right.Deni Elliott - 2007 - Journal of Mass Media Ethics 22 (2-3):100 – 112.
Brown on Mill's Moral Theory: A Critical Response.Dale E. Miller - 2010 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9 (1):47-66.
Mill, Paternalism, and Slavery.John D. Hodson - 1980 - Analysis 41 (1):60 - 62.
On Millgram on Mill.Dale E. Miller - 2004 - Utilitas 16 (1):96-108.
Mill on Happiness.S. Evan Kreider - 2010 - Philosophical Papers 39 (1):53-68.
Utilitarianism.John Stuart Mill - 2009 - In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. Oxford University Press.
Mill's Liberalism and Liberalism's Posterity.John Gray - 2000 - The Journal of Ethics 4 (1-2):137-165.


Added to PP index

Total downloads
95 ( #66,957 of 2,285,739 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #390,439 of 2,285,739 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature