Paternalism and Personal Identity

John Kleinig

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Limited space for strong paternalism that does not violate liberal values may be found in the complex and elusive idea of personal identity. Several options for liberal paternalism are explored. There is, first, the idea of a layered self, comprising core and peripheral commitments, in which the latter may sometimes jeopardize the former. Paternalistic interventions may seek to secure the former against the latter. Second, there is the more contentious idea that personal identity is not continuous but successive, and that a foreseen later self may be overridden in favor of an earlier, and presumably, more authentic self. Third, consideration is given to the possibility that the self emerging from paternalistic intervention is radically different from the self that originally authorized an advance directive. Should the earlier self be given priority over the emergent later one? Finally, the paper hints at the limited scope of liberal defenses that trade on the complexities of personal identity by confronting the challenge that is posed by consensual cannibalism, in which one person's core concern is the consumption of a willing other. Though liberals are rightly troubled by strong paternalism, they must find plausible ways of dealing with hard cases.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)93-106
    Number of pages14
    JournalJahrbuch fuer Wissenschaft und Ethik
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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