Paternalism, respect and dialogue

Soo Jin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Supporters of paternalistic policies argue that interference with risky or dangerous choices for citizens’ own good is permissible, as long as those choices are caused by cognitive irrationality or ignorance. Yet, some liberal thinkers argue that despite human irrationality, paternalistic policies are still wrong because they fail to respect citizens as moral equals. I argue that actually both views are mistaken about what respect for citizens requires, because they conceptualize the citizens’ interests from the wrong standpoint. In order for citizens to be respected as equals, I argue that citizens’ interests must be defined from a joint (second-person) standpoint which is constructed through a dialogical process between policymakers and citizens oriented towards mutual understanding. Furthermore, I argue that engaging citizens in such a dialogue is a distinctive paternalistic intervention in its own right, which unlike other kinds of paternalistic intervention, is compatible with respect for citizens as equals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-517
Number of pages26
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Jurgen Habermas
  • citizen interests
  • dialogue
  • equal respect
  • experts
  • irrationality
  • paternalism
  • reasons
  • second-person standpoint
  • understanding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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