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The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law Volume 3: Harm to Self$
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Joel Feinberg

Print publication date: 1989

Print ISBN-13: 9780195059236

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195059239.001.0001

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Legal Paternalism

Legal Paternalism

(p.3) 17 Legal Paternalism
The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law Volume 3: Harm to Self

Joel Feinberg

Oxford University Press

There are a number of diverse meanings of “paternalism.” Feinberg attempts to bring some precision to the meaning of the term. He examines the liberal position, which maintains that prevention of harm (physical, psychological, or economic) to the actor himself is always a good reason for prohibition. Feinberg argues that legal paternalism is a “presumptively blameable” view because it implies that the state often can know the interests of individual citizens better than the citizens know them themselves. The most promising strategy for the antipaternalist is to construct a convincing conception of personal autonomy that can explain how that notion is a moral trump card.

Keywords:   coercion, liberty, paternalism

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