Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.


Posted by Dr Samuel Douglas on January 27, 2005

Lentin’s work on racism got me thinking about paternalism in the left of politics. Much as they might deny it, it is an attitude that I have personally witnessed in many involved in this side of activism in Newcastle. Many politcal movements are plausibly paternalistic, but what if anything, can we or should we do about this?
I mean, it is certainly uncontroversial to suggest that many people do not know what is good for them. We can think that we know better, and we might. But does this give us the right to impose our will, our views, or even our suggestions on them? In not letting somone be self-determing, and protecting them from making horrible, painful and fatal mistakes, are we doing more damage to them than if we let them have their way? Obviously we don’t want them to harm other people, but that aside, the left seems to be leaning away from individual choce, towards ‘educating’ people, so that they know what is good for them (which by coincidence is what the party says is good). I am personally happy to tell other people what to do, because most people are idiouts, I do think I know better. But I don’t want someone else to do that to me. Maybe I give up the right to be paternalistic, in order to be protected from the will of those who think they know better than me. Kind of like Hobbes, but for libertines. I suspect that it s more to do with power. Those with it will inevitably get those wh do not have it to follow certain rules, not matter how much they believe in self-determination.


One Response to “Paternalism”

  1. Society's 2 Blame said

    In consideration of self government (demos) Aristotle established that capitalism would be doomed to failure since the masses would clearly use their power to take away the wealth of the few if any individual or group tried to hoarde it.

    His rational conclusion was that capitalism must be used to raise the wealth of the state, since the people would only tollerate a wealthy upper class if they themselves were comfortably well off.

    In consideration of Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin (during delibaration over the constitution of the new indepedent American state) pointed out that with regards to self governance (democracy) capitalism would be doomed to failure since the masses would clearly use their power to take away the wealth of the few if any individual or group tried to hoarde it.

    His rationale conclusion was this “The people who own the country ought to run it”. Thus the American republic was born.


    Richard Hooker in 1054 wrote a series of essays on “the several laws” referring to laws of the church, state, spirit and nature as rationale for action.

    His conclusion, that the educated are not claiming a privelege but exercising a most serious responsability in taking the role of teacher and leader.

    If self governed, the general mill of people would undoubtedly make bad choices, lacking as it were, the insight or qualities to apply laws other than the binding natural instinct. (clearly a bad thing here)


    I wonder what would happen if Channel Nine News stopped telling me what to think?

  2. Society for Historical Accuracy said

    Richard Hooker wrote in 1554 not 1054

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