Relational Autonomy, Paternalism, and Maternalism

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):649-667 (2018)
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Abstract

The concept of paternalism is intricately tied to the concept of autonomy. It is commonly assumed that when paternalistic interventions are wrong, they are wrong because they impede individuals’ autonomy. Our aim in this paper is to show that the recent shift towards conceiving of autonomy relationally highlights a separate conceptual space for a nonpaternalistic kind of interpersonal intervention termed maternalism. We argue that maternalism makes a twofold contribution to the debate over the ethics of interpersonal action and decision-making. Descriptively, it captures common experiences that, while not unusual in everyday life, are largely absent from the present discussion. Normatively, it describes a type of intervention with justification conditions distinct from the standard framework of paternalism. We explicate these contributions by describing six key differences between maternalism and paternalism, and conclude by anticipating and responding to potential objections.

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Author Profiles

Fay Niker
University of Stirling
Laura Specker Sullivan
Fordham University

References found in this work

The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Liberalism Without Perfection.Jonathan Quong - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
Trust and antitrust.Annette Baier - 1986 - Ethics 96 (2):231-260.
Harm to Self.Joel Feinberg - 1986 - Oxford University Press USA.

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