Hume and the Problem of Paternalism: When is Humanity Sufficient?

Southern Journal of Philosophy 54 (1):107-128 (2016)
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Hume states that if a group of powerless, rational creatures lived amongst human beings, then humans would be required to treat this species with humanity but not with justice. Michael Ridge has argued that this implies humans would be required to engage in a morally dubious form of paternalism toward this imagined species. I argue that a proper understanding of why this imagined species is excluded from the scope of justice shows Hume has a plausible moral reason for requiring paternalism in this instance. The reason the imagined species is excluded is that they are incapable of feeling what I term “the pain of dependence,” or unease arising from complete dependence upon those who are more powerful. Those capable of the pain of dependence will have reason to resent exclusion from the scope of justice. However, I contend that Hume did not think that the imagined species was capable of feeling the pain of dependence. This means that the imagined species would not consider themselves wronged when subject to paternalistic treatment, and, consequently, there is good reason to think the sort of paternalism that Hume's theory allows is not morally objectionable



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Ryan Pollock
Texas A&M San Antonio

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The Limits of Sympathetic Concern and Moral Consideration in Adam Smith.Ryan Pollock - 2019 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 36 (3):257-277.

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