Philosophy Tag


When last we updated the game, Dan Haybron (St. Louis University) had tagged Michael Bishop (Florida State) for a book and an article. Not to give it all away but this week Bishop tags someone for a book. Whoa there, players! Let’s recall our humble roots and try to stick to articles from now on, okay? Now take it away, Bishop:


There is a robust tradition in Western political thought that holds that the only way to justify placing limits on individual freedom is to prevent harm to others. Sarah Conly (Bowdoin) challenges this tradition head-on in her book, Against Autonomy (2013, Cambridge). She argues for coercive paternalism: the government is sometimes justified in restricting our freedom, in making certain options illegal, for our own good. (For a taste, see her article on super-sized sugary drinks in The New York Times.) Conly faces some well-known objections, and she parries them with great skill. A nice feature of this book is that it presents a positive and attractive moral vision: coercive paternalism as a practice that reflects the values of compassion, social engagement, and (perhaps surprisingly) the importance of human choice. Everything I want in a philosophy book is here – it’s timely, bold, clear, powerfully argued, scientifically informed, philosophically sophisticated and short. So Sarah Conly, you’re it.

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