interests -Reply

jwalker jwalker at
Wed Apr 12 12:31:54 MDT 1995

On Wed, 12 Apr 1995, Lisa Rogers wrote:

> >>> Justin Schwartz <jschwart at>  4/12/95,
> 09:02am >>>
> In the following Lisa Rogers says that talk about interests--what's
> good for you--threatens to justify paternalism. I think this is a
> mistake.
> >>>>It wasn't just me, I was responding to John Walker, but you have
> clarified the issue admirably.  I agree with you, Justin.
> Lisa
Well, I think Lisa was right to be antsy about talk of what's in people's
interest, once that's separated from what people actually (happen to)
desire.  It may be true that noting that something is in a person's
interest even though they don't think it is, isn't strictly speaking
sufficient to justify coercing that person to do that thing.  But that's
the sort of consideration people invoke when they _do_ want to justify

What's more, interest-talk does seem to establish _some_ sort of case for
getting people to do things.  For if something's in your interest, then
it'd be good for you to do, have, or be that thing.  And if it'd be good,
then that sure _sounds_ like a reason, of some strength, to do it.

There may be countervailing reasons, of course.  But they're not all that
easy to find and articulate.  As you note, Justin, Mill's case against
paternalism is epistemological, and hence it's contingent and
rebuttable.  I wonder if there's a better one.


John D. Walker

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