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Since Mill's seminal work On Liberty, philosophers and political theorists have accepted that we should respect the decisions of individual agents when those decisions affect no one other than themselves. Indeed, to respect autonomy is often understood to be the chief way to bear witness to the intrinsic value of persons. In this book, Sarah Conly rejects the idea of autonomy as inviolable. Drawing on sources from behavioural economics and social psychology, she argues that we are so often irrational in making our decisions that our autonomous choices often undercut the achievement of our own goals. Thus in many cases it would advance our goals more effectively if government were to prevent us from acting in accordance with our decisions. Her argument challenges widely held views of moral agency, democratic values and the public/private distinction, and will interest readers in ethics, political philosophy, political theory and philosophy of law.Read more
- Questions standard values of democracy
- Argues for a new justification for paternalistic laws
- Takes contemporary studies in behavioural economics and social psychology and shows implications for governmental policy
Reviews & endorsements
"For generations paternalism has had a bad odor, and individual autonomy has reigned supreme. Sarah Conly's book will change all of that. She argues in favor of paternalism with rigor and gusto, and persuasively shows how shedding our reflexive aversion to paternalism will make people better off. Some will be persuaded and others not, but this book will forever change the nature of the debates about paternalism, autonomy, and the role of the state in individual well-being."
Frederick Schauer, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law, University of VirginiaSee more reviews
"Sarah Conly has written the best book about paternalism since Mill, and the best philosophical defense of paternalism we have to date. Tough-minded, resourceful, precise, and informed by knowledge of both psychology and the regulatory state, the book issues a challenge to which, from now on, anyone who objects to paternalistic government policies will have to respond. A marvelous achievement."
Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, University of Chicago
"According to Mill, 'Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.' Sarah Conly disagrees. In this lively, accessible, sensible, and well argued book, Conly makes a case for coercive paternalism that critics of the 'nanny state' will have to take seriously."
Alan Wertheimer, Professor Emeritus, University of Vermont
"… careful, provocative, and novel, and it is a fundamental challenge to Mill and the many people who follow him …"
Cass R. Sunstein, The New York Review of Books
"… Sarah Conly’s book Against Autonomy is the first full-length, philosophical exploration and defense of a much broader, and coercive, paternalism … This is a well-written, thoughtful, informed, treatment of its topic. One test of the quality of a book’s argumentation is to see, when a doubt arises in one’s mind about some claim, whether the author, at some point, addresses it. Conly passes this test with high marks …"
Gerald Dworkin, University of California, Davis, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"… a timely and important addition to the literature on paternalism … this is a well-written, well-argued volume that will be of interest to undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers … Highly recommended …"
J. S. Taylor, The College of New Jersey, Choice
"… a concise and coherent argument worth considering by students and the lay public interested in the intersection of philosophy, politics, and psychology. It is written in plain language with minimal philosophical jargon, and is both accessible and eminently readable … Overall, the book is coherent and generally very well-argued …"
Matthew A. Butkus, Metapsychology
"… a thought-provoking contribution (in every sense of the word provoking) both to general practical philosophy and to biomedical ethics in particular … this book is worth reading because it poses the right questions and does not shy away from consequences which may be drawn from this although violating political correctness at first sight … should be studied by everyone who is interested in defending autonomy and liberty for finite human beings."
Michael Quante, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy
"… usefully illuminates the moral-ethical complexities and risks of community-based lawyering for pro bono attorneys who stand up in defense of impoverished communities."
Michigan Law Review
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- Date Published: December 2012
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107024847
- length: 216 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
- weight: 0.46kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Why value autonomy?
3. Alienation, authenticity, and affect
4. Misuse and abuse: perfectionism and preferences
5. Misuse and abuse: punishment and privacy
7. Final justifications.
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