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wolffchap2notes - Intro Weve discussed the nature of...

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Intro: We’ve discussed the nature of legitimate punishment, and part of our discussion focused on what you might call the rights of offenders (i.e. we discussed certain restrictions on how we can treat offenders). One objection to Alex’ treatment was that he wouldn’t be reformed in the proper way. But another glaring objection didn’t come up much in our discussion (though Humi raised it sort of): There’s a problem, perhaps, with irreversibly conditioning people so that they can’t act in accordance with their own desires. Why is that? We need to be wary of the tyranny of the majority . Suppose you lived in a country where it was illegal (because of a majority vote) to engage in consensual sex with your spouse involving birth control. Suppose now that you have been caught using birth control with your spouse, and that you have been incarcerated. Might you not have some legitimate complaint here? Does this seem like the kind of thing that the state, even if endorsed by the majority, should prevent you from doing? Whether you think so or not, I hope the case has been made: There seem to be some limits that we need to set on the kinds of interference that the state can have in our individual lives. Mill Liberty Notes Mill is neither an anarchist nor a totalitarian; his view falls somewhere between these two. He thinks that absolute freedom would bring about bad results, because he believes that some individuals will inevitably abuse it. Now, clearly, governments do interfere with the lives of their citizens. Our question, since we’re engaged in political philosophy here, is to determine whether they should , and if so, to what extent. Famous formulation of the Harm Principle (Liberty Principle) : “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm from others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” “You may justifiably limit a person’s freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another.” (Wolff’s paraphrase) This looks like it may be a plausible principle for us to follow. But it may have some problems. We’ll need to consider it more carefully: Exceptions to the principle : -Children -People living in “backward states of society”—uncivilized people
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Question: Why do we want to limit the freedoms of children more than adults? Why do we “protect” them from things like pornography, sexual relations with adults, the use of alcohol, gambling, and the choice to avoid education? What justification can we give that won’t leave us without these liberties? -Introduce Paternalism Paternalism may be a big problem for governmental involvement in private life. Before we attack Mill on this point, though, let’s make sure that we have a solid understand of how the Liberty Principle is really supposed to work. Following Wolff, let’s consider how it applies to the freedom of thought.
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