interests -Reply

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Wed Apr 12 19:28:18 MDT 1995


On Wed, 12 Apr 1995, jwalker wrote:

> >
> 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.

Don't be silly. I want to smoke, which I do. But it's obviously not in my
interest to smoke.

  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
> paternalism.

Sure, but that's an obvious mistake.
>
> 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.
>
Well, it's a reason for you to do it. It's not on the face of it a reason
for you to be made to do it whether you want to or not.

> 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.

Well, all reasons are prima facie, contingemt and rebuttable. As a parent,
I take a very paternalist attitude towards my kids. When I was a teacher I
was moderately paternalist towards mny students, though less so than many
of my colleagues. As a society many people support various paternalist
policies, e.g., about drug use. Paternalism ought to be regarded with some
suspicion. But it isn;t false by definition. As to other grounds for
nonpaternalis, how about my suggestion that choice and the freedom to make
mistakes is a fundamental human interest which should be overriden only
with great caution?

--Justin Schwartz




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