Paternalism (Liberty/Autonomy)

In order for there to be good ends, there must be some unconditionally good thing. Humanity, or rather our rational nature, is this unconditional good. Christine Korsgaard in 1983 explains that

The argument shows how Kant’s idea of justification works. It can be read as a kind of regress upon the conditions, starting from an important assumption. The assumption is that when a rational being makes a choice or undertakes an action, he or she supposes the object to be good, and its pursuit to be justified. At least, if there is a categorical imperative there must be objectively good ends, for then there are necessary actions and so necessary ends (G 45-46/427-428 and Doctrine of Virtue 43-44/384-385). In order for there to be any objectively good ends, however, there must be something that is unconditionally good and so can serve as a sufficient condition of their goodness. Kant considers what this might be: it cannot be an object of inclination, for those have only a conditional worth, “for if the inclinations and the needs founded on them did not exist, their object would be without worth” (G 46/428). It cannot be the inclinations themselves because a rational being would rather be free from them. Nor can it be external things, which serve only as means. So, Kant asserts, the unconditionally valuable thing must be “humanity” or “rational nature,” which he defines as the power set to an end (G 56/437 and DV 51/392). Kant explains that regarding your existence as a rational being as an end in itself is a “subjective principle of human action.” By this I understand him to mean that we must regard ourselves as capable of conferring value upon the objects of our choice, the ends that we set, because we must regard our ends as good. But since “every other rational being thinks of his existence by the same rational ground which holds also for myself’ (G 47/429), we must regard others as capable of conferring value by reason of their rational choices and so also as ends in themselves. Treating another as an end in itself thus involves making that person’s ends as far as possible your own (G 49/430). The ends that are chosen by any rational being, possessed of the humanity or rational nature that is fully realized in a good will, take on the status of objective goods. They are not intrinsically valuable, but they are objectively valuable in the sense that every rational being has a reason to promote or realize them. For this reason it is our duty to promote the happiness of others-the ends that they choose-and, in general, to make the highest good our end.

Because this rational nature is the only unconditionally valuable thing, and because it gives meaning to all other valuable things, the value for today’s round is Rational Agency, or the ability to set our own ends.

When we act paternalistically we violate rational agency, and in doing so dehumanize whoever is being acted upon. Michael Cholbi of California State Polytechnic University 2017 explains

With this sketch of the three rational powers in hand, I propose that the rational will view of paternalism, according to which paternalism involves substituting one’s judgment for another’s and thereby failing to engage another’s rational will, ought to conceptualize the wrongs of paternalism in terms of which of these rational powers paternalistic acts seek to supplant. In other words, by understanding how various kinds of paternalism attempt to supplant the three powers necessary for rational volition, we can understand how various paternalistic intercessions are illegitimate based on which of these powers they intercede in. More specifically, this account locates the grounds for opposition to paternalism in truths about individual identity. According to this account, paternalism is a condemnation of our competency as rational agents. But it is also a condemnation of who we are—of important elements of our identity as individuals—and this gives us a special reason for opposing paternalism.

Thus the value criterion for today’s round is minimizing paternalism. Michael Cholbi No Date further explains that

That paternalism involves substituting our rational powers for another’s, even for the other’s benefit, thus seems to provide a powerful moral reason to oppose it. Intuitively though, Tina’s paternalistic plans to steer Ursula toward Cachet do not seem equally objectionable. In particular, Ursula seems to have more reason to resent Tina if she adopts plan (c) than if she adopts plan (b), and more reason to resent Tina if she adopts (b) than if she adopts (a).

To explain, the state acts paternalistically when it substitutes its rational agency for the agency of another, and the same is true of individuals. This means the best way to respect the rational agency of individuals is minimize paternalism, from both state and private actors.

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