Liberalism and paternalism


[edit] Original article

[edit] Author(s)

Shafer-Landau, Russ

[edit] Source

Legal Theory (2005), 11: 169-191 Cambridge University Press. Available on Cambridge Journals

[edit] Abstract/Overview

Joel Feinberg's brief against legal paternalism, which is the central focus of his Harm to Self, 1 is undoubtedly the most scrupulous, nuanced, and thorough critique of the view yet provided by a liberal philosopher. I was once convinced of Feinberg's case and am now less sure. This makes me uneasy, both because I have strong liberal instincts that I would prefer to be able to justify, and also because I suppose I have not thought about the matter with the kind or degree of care that Feinberg himself did. In assessing his antipaternalist arguments, I include here a number of excerpts from Feinberg's own writings to remind us of his subtlety and precision, his broad range of references, his elegant and informed style, his sound good sense, his ability to provide the revealing, compelling example, and his supple cast of mind. That my commentary is bound to pale by comparison is inevitable, but I take some comfort in thinking that one cannot be held liable for what cannot be helped.

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