Sammanfattning: This is a thesis about anti-paternalism – the liberal doctrine that we may not interfere with a person’s liberty for her own good. Empirical circumstances and moral values may certainly give us reason to avoid benevolent interference. Anti-paternalism as a normative doctrine should, however, be rejected.Essay I concerns the definitions of paternalism and anti-paternalism. It is argued that only a definition of paternalism in terms of compound reason-actions can accommodate its special moral properties. Definitions in terms of actions, common in the literature, cannot. It is argued, furthermore, that in specifying the reason-actions in further detail, the notion of what is self-regarding, as opposed to other-regarding, is irrelevant, contrary to received opinion.Essay II starts out with the definition of paternalism defended in essay I and claims that however this very general definition is specified, anti-paternalism is unreasonable and should be rejected. Anti-paternalism is the position that certain reasons – referring one way or the other to the good of a person, give no valid normative support to certain actions – some kind of interferences with the same person. Since the reasons in question are normally quite legitimate and important reasons for action, a convincing argument for anti-paternalism must explain why they are invalid in cases of interference. A closer look at the reasons and actions in question provides no basis for such an explanation.Essay III considers a concrete case of benevolent interference – the withholding of information concerning uncertain threats to public health in the public’s best interest. Such a policy has been suggested in relation to the European Commission’s proposed new system for the Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH). Information about uncertain threats to health from chemicals would allegedly spread anxiety and depression and thus do more harm than good. The avoidance of negative health effects is accepted as a legitimate and good reason for withholding of information, thus respecting the conclusion of essay II, that anti-paternalism should be rejected. Other reasons, however, tip the balance in favour of making the information available. These reasons include the net effects on knowledge, psychological effects, effects on private decisions and effects on political decisions.
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