Res Publica

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 441–458 | Cite as

The Normative Core Of Paternalism

  • Kalle Grill


The philosophical debate on paternalism is conducted as if the property of being paternalistic should be attributed to actions. Actions are typically deemed to be paternalistic if they amount to some kind of interference with a person and if the rationale for the action is the good of the person interfered with. This focus on actions obscures the normative issues involved. In particular, it makes it hard to provide an analysis of the traditional liberal resistance to paternalism. Given the fact that actions most often have mixed rationales, it is not clear how we should categorize and evaluate interfering actions for which only part of the rationale is the good of the person. The preferable solution is to attribute the property of being paternalistic not to actions, but to compounds of reasons and actions. The framework of action–reasons provides the tools for distinguishing where exactly paternalism lies in the complex web of reasons and actions.


actions action-reasons anti-paternalism harm to others interference paternalism reasons 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of PhilosophyRoyal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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