Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Rivka Weinberg

Reader 2

Dion Scott-Kakures

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2020 Alexandra MC Bacall


Autonomy and freedom are valued in society and in day-to-day life. Therefore, paternalism—the restriction of individuals’ choices and freedoms should not be taken lightly. In my thesis I begin by evaluating Gerald Dworkin’s account of autonomy. I then layout Dworkin and John Stuart Mill’s accounts of freedom. Once I have hopefully articulated the importance of autonomy and freedom, I begin my discussion of paternalism—acts which inherently violate autonomy. I start by defining soft and hard paternalism. While discussing soft paternalism, I evaluate Joel Feinberg’s standard of voluntariness. I then evaluate what Dworkin considers to be problematic life examples for the soft paternalist. In my discussion of hard paternalism, I evaluate the arguments of Sarah Conly’s account and other philosophers’ responses to her. Lastly, I look at the particular concerns facing elderly populations. As, many of the questions raised regarding when paternalism is justified are particularly pertinent for elderly people, some of whom are not as capable as when they were younger. In that chapter, I primarily look at the works of Atul Gawande and Caroline Dunn.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.