Bowdoin Philosophy Professor Argues for Greater Paternalism

Bowdoin Philosophy Professor Argues for Greater Paternalism from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

The new book, Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Sarah Conly, has been described as “novel,” “illuminating,” and “provocative” in the New York Review of Books. The New York Times reaffirms that Conly’s book brings “serious philosophical discussion” to the debate on autonomy versus paternalism. Conly’s approach to her subject matter is particularly relevant in light of the uproar that erupted after Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned the sale of large sodas in New York City last year. Watch Associate Professor Philosophy Larry Simon interview Conly about her book and why she thinks paternalism is a reasonable government response to our bad decisions.

3 thoughts on “Bowdoin Philosophy Professor Argues for Greater Paternalism

  1. Based on Cass Sunstein’s extended review of Professor Conly’s book, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/mar/07/its-your-own-good/?page=1,
    it sounds like Professor Conly has constructed a very clever way to defend the idea that, when considering the role of government, the ends can justify the means.

    Let’s hope there are at least some students at Bowdoin who are debating among themselves (and with Professor Conly) about whether her ideas really do hold water.

  2. I need to agree with Christopher. While I can see how Professor Conly’s argument is nuanced in her use of social sciences and recent. At least one thing that doesn’t square for me: If her concern is with protecting the majority and with the majority’s interests being represented in paternalistic legislation, isn’t the majority (80%) of the population doing fine with the current level of nudges? Furthermore, does Professor Conly’s book address numbers of smokers who start per year and how many of this 20% is a carry over of people addicted prior to what has already been an aggressive social ban on smoking?

    A much larger justification that seems to exist throughout her argument is an assumption of the preference for extending life (and the much more vague, though always positive sounding, notion of “health.” Unfortunately for many Americans, such a line of thinking has produced an insurmountable amount of fat shaming politics (of which Mayor Bloomberg’s legislation is but a small piece).

    Wonderful interview and it’s great to see Bowdoin faculty producing such conversation-driving work.

  3. Is the academy so debauched that it doesn’t recognize fascism? I really don’t want Prof Sarah O Conley, PhD deciding, for my own good, what I can read, wear, drink, purchase, attend, praise, cultivate, drink — and so on — under penalty of law. I understand her next book is an argument against allowing people to decide how many children they may have. Does no one in Brunswick comprehend where this sort of thing leads?

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