digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Paternalism (or parentalism) is behavior, by a person, organization or state, which limits some person or group's liberty or autonomy for their own good.[1] Paternalism can also imply that the behavior is against or regardless of the will of a person, or also that the behavior expresses an attitude of superiority.[2]

The word paternalism is from the Latin pater for father, though paternalism should be distinguished from patriarchy. Some, such as J.S. Mill, think paternalism to be appropriate towards children: "It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood." [3] Paternalism towards adults is sometimes thought to treat them as if they were children.[4]

Examples of paternalism include laws requiring the use of motorcycle helmets, a parent forbidding their children to engage in dangerous activities, and a psychiatrist confiscating sharp objects from someone who is suicidally depressed.

Soft and hard paternalism[edit]

The terms soft and hard are used in two quite different senses in this context. Philosophers, following Joel Feinberg's influential book Harm to Self (1986), usually use "soft paternalism" for paternalism towards a person whose action or choice is insufficiently voluntary to be genuinely his or hers. Hard paternalism in this usage means paternalism towards a person whose action or choice is sufficiently voluntary to be genuinely his or hers. Soft paternalism in this usage may also refer to interference with a person aimed to establish whether or not his or her action or choice is sufficiently voluntary. In contrast, economists and lawyers usually use "soft paternalism" for mild paternalism, that is paternalism that is not coercive, or not very "heavy-handed". For example, libertarian paternalism is soft paternalism in this sense. Hard paternalism in this usage is coercive paternalism.

Opponents of paternalism[edit]

In his Two Treatises of Government, John Locke argues (against Robert Filmer) that political and paternal power cannot be identified. John Stuart Mill opposes state paternalism on the grounds that individuals know their own good better than the state does, that the moral equality of persons demands respect for others' liberty, and that paternalism disrupts the development of an independent character. In On Liberty he writes:

the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.[5]

Contemporary opponents of paternalism often appeal to the ideal of personal autonomy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dworkin, Gerald, "Paternalism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  2. ^ Shiffrin, Seana. 2000. Paternalism, Unconscionability Doctrine, and Accommodation. Philosophy and Public Affairs 29(3): 205-250.
  3. ^ Mill, J.S. [1859]/(1991) ‘On Liberty’, published in Gray, John (ed), John Stuart Mill: On Liberty and Other Essays, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  4. ^ Feinberg, Joel. 1986. Harm to Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 4
  5. ^ Mill, J.S. [1859]/(1991) ‘On Liberty’, published in Gray, John (ed), John Stuart Mill: On Liberty and Other Essays, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.14

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paternalism — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
2482 videos foundNext > 

Paternalism, Legal Moralism, Deontology, and Consequentialism (Husak)

For LaSalle U. online Current Ethical Issues.

Government Paternalism Nanny state or helpful friend? - Professor Julian Le Grand

Paternalistic Laws

What we think about paternalistic laws in a "free" society. Website: http://simplepolitics.dixonprod.com Paternalism (or parentalism) is behavior, by a perso...

Libertarian Paternalism Is Not an Oxymoron

Cass Sunstein, professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School (Oct 5, 2006 at Princeton University)

Richard Arneson - Paternalism, Autonomy and Coercion

Talk given by Richard Arneson ((Philosophy Department, University of California) at the Essex Autonomy Project event: 'Paternalism and Coercion', 25-26 Novem...

Kinds of paternalism

Video for the drug policy section of Philosophy and Public Affairs/Today's Moral Issues distinguishing 4 kinds of paternalism along two dimensions.

Autonomy vs Paternalism Ethics Final Project.mp4

Ethics Project Final Texting while driving debate LLU ASMR C/O 2012.

Bernie On Liberal Paternalism

Ethical Dilemmas: Patient Autonomy, Paternalism

Daughter of 95 year old patient does not want a the fact that her mother has cancer to be disclosed to her (the patient). Does this violate patient autonomy?

New York City Answers: Soda Restrictions and Paternalism

The Cambridge Book Club features Paternalism.

2482 videos foundNext > 

We're sorry, but there's no news about "Paternalism" right now.


Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Paternalism

You can talk about Paternalism with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!