At seven-thirty-one A.M. on Saturday morning I am awakened by a phone call from mom, "Oh honey--it's a beautiful sunny day that knew you wouldn't want to sleep through. Now that you are awake go outside and breathe the morning air....No, no, that's ok, I'll wait...you go ahead and do that.." After I breathe and get mom off the phone I reach over and turn on my stereo. As New Age music fills the room I remember when my roommate switched the George Winston music I fall asleep to with a subliminal weight-loss tape. (I lost five pounds that week--gained it back plus five more the next week). I grab my shoes and head toward the door--I don't want to be late for skydiving class--but as I am leaving my friend W. pulls into the driveway blocking my car. She jumps out, pulls me into her car and drives away, saying "Skydiving is for dangerous fools. I am taking you to play bingo instead."
More than likely you or I would not wake up to a day like this one, but the example is meant to illustrate something important. Paternalism is a common phenomenon, one we probably encounter more often than we realize. Even though we do not always realize them as such, thoughts and judgments on paternalism are employed in decisions we make in day-to-day situations about how to treat people. An investigation of this liberty-limiting principle, then, should be of practical interest to everyone, not just philosophers interested in theory. I will investigate the subject of paternalism by looking at a variety of definitions and examples, exploring the autonomy-based antipaternalist positions of Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, and finally, incorporating the ideas of Christine Korsgaard, a neo-Kantian philosopher, on personal identity into an argument for a Kantian version of respect for autonomy. Finally, I will present some general guidelines for paternalistic interference that can be applied practically.
Browning '93, Jennifer L., "Paternalism: A Search for Acceptable and Applicable Principles of Intervention" (1993). Honors Projects. Paper 10.