Philosophy Weekly Research Seminar at Durham University: Dr Emma Bullock (KCL)

Abstract: Roughly speaking, a paternalistic interference is one in which an individual’s choices or actions are interfered with for that individual’s own good. Part of determining whether a particular paternalistic interference is justified involves identifying what counts as a benefit to the individual interfered with. Whilst much of the literature on paternalism has focused on identifying the prudential pay-offs of paternalistic interferences, a burgeoning discussion has proposed that we could think about the benefit in epistemic terms. Epistemic paternalism is motivated by the thought that the individual is more likely to acquire, retain and make good use of true beliefs (according to the veritist), or increase his understanding (according to the virtue epistemologist), should an interference take place. Discussions of justified epistemic paternalism thus equate the practice with the project of ‘epistemic amelioration’ (Ahlstrom-Vij, 2013: 10). In this paper I argue that the justificatory criteria for epistemic paternalism also justify interferences that make individuals epistemically worse off. Whilst it might be rhetorically useful to speak of paternalistic practices with an epistemologically ameliorative edge, I suggest that it is misguided to conceive of epistemic paternalism as a distinctive kind of paternalistic interference.

Room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet. 11am refreshments; 11.30am talk


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