Paternalism is commonly understood as an infringement on the personal freedom and autonomy of a person (or class of persons) with a beneficent or protective intent, although this definition is somewhat contested. As the ensuing discussion suggests, paternalism generally involves competing claims between individual liberty and authoritative social control. Questions concerning paternalism may include as well both the claims of individual rights and social protections and the legal and socially legitimated means of satisfying those claims. The discursive use of the term paternalism is almost exclusively negative, employed to diminish specific policies or practices by presenting them in opposition to individual freedom.

This entry examines the history and development of paternalism as a practice and a concept and further considers its moral implications and applications ...

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