PHIL. 410A:  DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR WEEKS #8-10 ON PATERNALISM

AND TERM PAPER TOPIC AND DEADLINES

 

 

            1.  What is Feinberg's distinction between weak and strong paternalism?  What sort of paternalism does Feinberg advocate?  What kind of paternalism does he believe that Mill would advocate?  Does he believe that there is a utilitarian justification for Mill's position on paternalism?

 

            2.  Collective Action Problems.  Dworkin distinguishes paternalistic interference with liberty from "a related type with which it is often confused."(p. 232)  He gives as an example legislation which limits the work week to 40 hours, and describes it as a case in which "the individuals involved may need the use of compulsion to give effect to their collective judgment of their own interest by guaranteeing each individual compliance by the others."(p. 232)  This should remind you of Mill's discussion of Sabbatarian legislation, and of our discussion of collective action problems.  Which of the sixteen examples of paternalism listed by Dworkin on 230-231 can be understood as collective action problems, not genuine paternalism?

 

            3.  Call the author of “Paternalism” Dworkin I and the author of "Paternalism:  Some Second Thoughts" Dworkin II.  How does Dworkin I distinguish cases in which paternalism is justified from cases in which it is not?  How does his position differ from Feinberg’s?  How does Dworkin I's position on slavery differ from Dworkin II's?

 

            4.  Schelling introduces a new twist on paternalistic intervention.  So far, we have discussed such examples from the point of view of an outside observer (e.g., from the point of view of the judge who might be asked to enforce a slavery contract).  But in many situations, the agent herself can view her future self as someone whose present liberty (that is, her liberty at that future time) ought to be limited for the sake of liberty or other benefits even further in the future.  Schelling refers to an episode from Moby Dick to illustrate this type of situation.  A more famous example is the example of Ulysses and the Sirens, briefly discussed by Dworkin (p. 236).  In order to hear the Sirens' song without steering his ship onto the rocks, Ulysses ordered his crew to bind him to the mast of his ship and then to stuff their ears (not his) with wax so that only he, not they can hear the Sirens' song.  Schelling claims that there are cases in which the individual over time is a succession or alternation of impermanent selves, with no overall superself to act as manager or referee.  The problem of the conflict of the selves should remind you of the distinction made by proponents of positive liberty between choices made by one's "true" self, and choices made by a "false" self.  Why does Schelling despair of making out this distinction in all cases?  Is there some way within the framework of negative liberty to make out such a distinction?  Schelling points out that we generally do not allow an earlier self to bind a future self, as Ulysses did).  For example, as Schelling says, "In America I cannot go to a fat farm, a non-smoking resort, or an exercise camp and legally bind the management to hold me when I ask to get out."(p. 180; Reader p. 104)  Should we be able to bind ourselves in this way?  What do you believe are the relevant considerations pro and con?

 

            5.  You should be able to explain Talbott’s position as it applies to his two main examples, the example of Allen and the recreational drug prohibition and the example of Lee the soccer player.  You should also be able to explain how Talbott’s view applies to slavery contracts, to suicide, and to assisted suicide.  How does Talbott's distinction between weak and strong paternalism differ from Feinberg's?  Explain. 

 

            6.  Why do the authors of the Philosopher’s Brief believe that the Supreme Court should recognize a right to assisted suicide?  How would opponents of such a right respond?

 

            7. Each of the authors Thomson, Mill, Rawls, Feinberg, Dworkin, Schelling, and Talbott discusses at least one of the following questions (and may discuss both):  (1) Should suicide be prohibited?  (2) Should agreements by which people alienate their most fundamental liberties (e.g., slavery contracts) be legally enforceable?  If they discuss both and take a clear position both, explain their positions on both with relevant citations.  If they discuss only one or if they take a clear position on only one, explain their position on the question they take a clear position on, and then apply the reasons that they give for that position and other relevant parts of their views to explain what position you think they would take on the issue that they do not discuss or take a clear position on.