Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1669–1688 | Cite as

Tolerant Paternalism: Pro-ethical Design as a Resolution of the Dilemma of Toleration

Original Paper

Abstract

Toleration is one of the fundamental principles that inform the design of a democratic and liberal society. Unfortunately, its adoption seems inconsistent with the adoption of paternalistically benevolent policies, which represent a valuable mechanism to improve individuals’ well-being. In this paper, I refer to this tension as the dilemma of toleration. The dilemma is not new. It arises when an agent A would like to be tolerant and respectful towards another agent B’s choices but, at the same time, A is altruistically concerned that a particular course of action would harm, or at least not improve, B’s well-being, so A would also like to be helpful and seeks to ensure that B does not pursue such course of action, for B’s sake and even against B’s consent. In the article, I clarify the specific nature of the dilemma and show that several forms of paternalism, including those based on ethics by design and structural nudging, may not be suitable to resolve it. I then argue that one form of paternalism, based on pro-ethical design, can be compatible with toleration and hence with the respect for B’s choices, by operating only at the informational and not at the structural level of a choice architecture. This provides a successful resolution of the dilemma, showing that tolerant paternalism is not an oxymoron but a viable approach to the design of a democratic and liberal society.

Keywords

Ethics by design Liberalism Nudging Paternalism Toleration Value-sensitive design 

References

  1. Bayer, R., & Beauchamp, D. E. (2007). Public health ethics: Theory, policy, and practice. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, E., Dubljevic, V., & Racine, E. (2013). Nudging without ethical fudging: Clarifying physician obligations to avoid ethical compromise. The American Journal of Bioethics, 13(6), 18–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blumenthal-Barby, J. S., & Burroughs, H. (2012). Seeking better health care outcomes: The ethics of using the “nudge”. The American Journal of Bioethics, 12(2), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brock, D. W. (1988). Paternalism and autonomy. Ethics, 98(3), 550–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brooks, T. (2013). Should we nudge informed consent? The American Journal of Bioethics, 13(6), 22–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, A. J. (2004). What toleration is. Ethics, 115(1), 68–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen, S. (2013). Nudging and informed consent. The American Journal of Bioethics, 13(6), 3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Di Nucci, E. (2013). Habits, nudges, and consent. The American Journal of Bioethics, 13(6), 27–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dunn, J. (1979). Western political theory in the face of the future, themes in the social sciences. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dworkin, G. (2010). “Paternalism.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy available online. Google Scholar
  11. Egan, L. C., Bloom, P., & Santos, L. R. (2010). Choice-induced preferences in the absence of choice: Evidence from a blind two choice paradigm with young children and capuchin monkeys. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(1), 204–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eligon, J., & Eckholm, E. (2013). New laws ban most abortions in North Dakota. New York: New York Times.Google Scholar
  13. Eslambolchilar, P., & Rogers, Y. (2013). Theme issue on persuasion, influence, nudge, or coercion (PINC). Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 17(6), 1171–1172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Euchner, W. (1969). Naturrecht und Politik bei John Locke, Kritische Studien zur Politikwissenschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Europäosche Verlagsanstalt.Google Scholar
  15. Feinberg, J. (1984). The moral limits of the criminal law (Vol. 4). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Filmer, R. (1949). Patriarcha and other political works. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Floridi, L. (2008). Trends in the philosophy of information. In P. Adriaans & J. F. A. K. van Benthem (Eds.), Handbook of philosophy of information (pp. 113–131). Amsterdam; London: North-Holland.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Floridi, L. (2009). The information society and its philosophy. The Information Society, 25(3), 153–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Floridi, L. (2011). A defence of constructionism: philosophy as conceptual engineering. Metaphilosophy, 42(3), 282–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Floridi, L. (2013a). Distributed morality in an information society. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(3), 727–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Floridi, L. (2013b). The ethics of information. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Floridi, L. (2015). Toleration and the design of norms. Science and Engineering Ethics, 21(5), 1095–1123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Friedman, B. (1996). Value-sensitive design. Interactions, 3(6), 16–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Friedman, B., Kahn, P, Jr, Borning, A., & Huldtgren, A. (2013). Value sensitive design and information systems. In N. Doorn, D. Schuurbiers, I. van de Poel, & M. E. Gorman (Eds.), Early engagement and new technologies: Opening up the laboratory (pp. 55–95). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hes, R., & Borking, J. J. F. M. (1995). Privacy-enhancing technologies: The path to anonymity. Registratiekamer.Google Scholar
  26. Huang, C. J., & Baum, M. L. (2012). Nudge ethics: Just a game of billiards? The American Journal of Bioethics, 12(2), 22–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Husak, D. N. (1981). Paternalism and autonomy. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 10(1), 27–46.Google Scholar
  28. Hustinx, P. (2010). Privacy by design: Delivering the promises. Identity in the Information Society, 3(2), 253–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Izuma, K., & Murayama, K. (2013). Choice-induced preference change in the free-choice paradigm: A critical methodological review. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lessig, L. (1999). Code: And other laws of cyberspace. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  31. Locke, J. (1689). A letter concerning toleration. Translated from the Latin of John Locke by W. Popple: London.Google Scholar
  32. Locke, J. (1991). A letter concerning toleration. Edited by John Horton and Susan Mendus for the Routledge philosophers in focus series. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Locke, J. (2002). Essays on the law of nature: The Latin text with a translation, introduction and notes, together with transcripts of Locke’s shorthand in his journal for 1676. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  34. Maehle, A.-H., & Geyer-Kordesch, J. (2002). Historical and philosophical perspectives on biomedical ethics: From paternalism to autonomy?. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  35. Menard, J.-F. (2010). A ‘nudge’ for public health ethics: Libertarian paternalism as a framework for ethical analysis of public health interventions? Public Health Ethics, 3(3), 229–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moazam, F. (2006). Bioethics and organ transplantation in a Muslim society: A study in culture, ethnography, and religion. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Nys, T., Denier, Y., & Vandevelde, T. (2007). Autonomy & paternalism: Reflections on the theory and practice of health care, Ethical perspectives monograph series. Leuven; Dudley, MA: Peeters.Google Scholar
  38. Padela, A. I., & Curlin, F. A. (2013). Religion and disparities: Considering the influences of Islam on the health of American Muslims. Journal of Religion and Health, 52(4), 1333–1345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Park, M. Y. (2014). How tipping is changing in the digital age. The Huffington Post.Google Scholar
  40. Renard, J. (2012). Fighting words: Religion, violence, and the interpretation of sacred texts. Berkeley, CA; London: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rothstein, M. A. (2014). Autonomy and paternalism in health policy: Currents in contemporary bioethics. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 42(4), 590–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Saghai, Y. (2013). Salvaging the concept of nudge. Journal of Medical Ethics, 39(8), 487–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sagoff, M. (2013). Trust versus paternalism. The American Journal of Bioethics, 13(6), 20–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Scanlon, T. M. (2003). The difficulty of tolerance: Essays in political philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scoccia, D. (1990). Paternalism and respect for autonomy. Ethics, 100(2), 318–334. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Selinger, E., & Whyte, K. P. (2012). What counts as a nudge? The American Journal of Bioethics, 12(2), 11–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sharot, T., De Martino, B., & Dolan, R. J. (2009). How choice reveals and shapes expected hedonic outcome. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29(12), 3760–3765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Song, A. V., Brown, P., & Glantz, S. A. (2014). When health policy and empirical evidence collide: The case of cigarette package warning labels and economic consumer surplus. American Journal of Public Health, 104(2), 42–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Spital, A. (1995). Mandated choice: A plan to increase public commitment to organ donation. JAMA, 273(6), 504–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thaler, R. H. (2009). Opting in vs opting out. New York: The New York Times.Google Scholar
  51. Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2008). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2009). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness (Rev. and expanded ed.). New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  53. van Dalen, H. P., & Henkens, K. (2014). Comparing the effects of defaults in organ donation systems. Social Science and Medicine, 106, 137–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. van der Hoven, J., & Manders-Huits, N. (2009). Value-sensitive design. In A companion to the philosophy of technology (pp. 477–480). Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  55. van Gorp, Anke. (2005). Ethical issues in engineering design; safety and sustainability. Tilburg: 3TU Ethics.Google Scholar
  56. VanDeVeer, D. (1986). Paternalistic intervention: The moral bounds of benevolence, Studies in moral, political, and legal philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Verweij, M., & van den Hoven, M. (2012). Nudges in public health: Paternalism is paramount. The American Journal of Bioethics, 12(2), 16–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. von Leyden, W. (1982). Hobbes and Locke: The politics of freedom and obligation (p. 1981). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  59. Wetzstein, C. (2014). Pro-life setback: Judge voids N. Dakota’s ‘heartbeat’ abortion law. Washington: The Washington Times.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Internet InstituteUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations