This is a book about parents, power, and children and, in particular, the legitimacy of parents' power over their children. It takes seriously the challenge posed by moral pluralism, and considers the role of both theoretical rationality and practical judgement in resolving moral dilemmas associated with parental power. The book first examines the prevailing view about parental power: a certain form of paternalism, justified treatment of those who lack the qualities of an agent, and one that does not generate moral conflicts. It proposes an alternative, pluralist view of paternalism before showing that even paternalism properly understood is of limited application when we evaluate parental power. According to the caretaker thesis, parental power makes up for the deficits in children's agency, and for that reason children should be subjected to standard institutional paternalism. The liberation thesis stands at the other end of the spectrum concerning children's rights. The book then addresses the counter-argument that issues of legitimacy arise in the political domain and not in respect of parent-child relations. It also examines the 'right to parent' and whether parents should be licensed, monitored, or trained children's voluntariness and competence, and the right to provide informed consent for medical treatment and research participation. Finally, the book talks about parents' efforts to share a way of life with their children and the State's efforts to shape the values of future citizens through civic education. The overall approach taken has much more in common with the problem-driven political philosophy.
What does the work of Judith Shklar reveal to us about the proper role and limits of political theory? In particular, what are the implications of her arguments both for the way in which we should think of freedom and for the approach we should take to the resolution of moral conflicts? There is growing interest in Shklar’s arguments, in particular the so-called liberalism of fear, characteristic of her mature work. She has become an important influence for those taking a sceptical approach to political thought and also for those concerned first and foremost with the avoidance of great evils. However, this book shows that the most important factor shaping her mature work is not her scepticism but, rather, a value monist approach to both moral conflict and freedom, and that this represents a radical departure from the value pluralism (and scepticism) of her early work. This book also advances a clear line of argument in defence of value pluralism in political theory, one that builds on but moves beyond Shklar’s own early work.
This chapter argues that moral dilemmas are real or genuine conflicts between independent moral considerations. It addresses moral dilemmas concerning the legitimacy of parents' power through what John Rawls's public or political reasoning, that is, reasonableness as well as Thomas Nagel's account of public justification in a context of actual disagreement. In support of Nagel's position, the chapter looks at Bernard Williams's account of what genuine dilemmas are and how they arise. The view of moral dilemmas defended entails that the role of theory has its limits, and in particular, theory will not identify a general rule for the resolution of moral conflicts. The chapter outlines an approach to practical reason and practical judgement. It explains how practical judgement can complement theoretical reasoning when faced with moral dilemmas.
This chapter explores an aspect of parents' power over children and provides instances where parents' power is exercised so as to promote children's agency. It discusses the findings from the psychology literature on child development, where a positive association is hypothesised between children's positive freedom and children's ever-increasing independence from parental control. To use the concepts of political philosophy, in the psychology literature, a positive association is hypothesised between children's negative freedom and positive freedom. The chapter looks at Joseph Raz's discussion of positive freedom, which refers to both 'the inner capacities required for the conduct of an autonomous life' and 'an adequate range of options' to choose from. Like Raz, Isaiah Berlin acknowledges that moral considerations can pull in different directions leading to moral conflicts. He indicates how practical reasoning can be critical and can take account of the background conditions supportive of autonomy.
This chapter evaluates the legitimacy of parental licences and the monitoring and training of parents. It discusses the evidence for the effectiveness of parental training programmes as a means to protect children's interests. It explores conceptual questions, relevant empirical evidence, and legal, policy, and service issues concerning parental licences and the monitoring and training of parents. The chapter also explores various proposals for the State's role in respect of adults becoming parents and retaining the right to parent, including the licensing and monitoring of parents. Through the passing of legislation, the implementation of policies, and the provision of services, the State exercises a profound influence on parenting. The chapter examines opportunities both to acknowledge the presence of moral conflict and to try to resolve such conflicts through practical reasoning and practical judgement.
In addressing the issue of informed consent, this chapter examines the legitimacy of the exercise of parents' power over their children. It begins with the legal status of minors and, in particular, the legal rights of minors to make informed consent decisions. The chapter investigates some important legal, policy, and service issues concerning informed consent. The discussion of legal, policy, and service issues, empirical findings about children's competence, professional judgements of competence, and the impact of parenting on children's competence, indicate where conceptual clarification is greatly needed. The chapter also examines empirical evidence relating to children's informed consent. It explores a number of central conceptual issues and addresses a number of ethical questions concerning children's informed consent. The chapter focuses on children's competence in joint decision making. It also focuses on the concepts of competence and voluntariness.
This chapter examines the efforts made by parents to share a way of life with their children as well as those efforts made in the name of the wider society to shape the values of its future citizens. It also examines civic education within a broader political environment of liberal democratic values and institutions. The chapter focuses on the legal, policy, and service issues relevant to civic education. Numerous studies have been carried out concerning civic education, both the civic component of children's formal education as well as specific civic education programmes. However, when children engage with civic education programmes, parents can be faced with moral conflicts concerning the requirement to protect children's liberty. The chapter explains the ways in which philosophers address the moral conflicts. It also addresses some of the ethical questions that arise when considering civic education.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in this book. The book considers the conditions that should be attached to the 'right to parent', and, in particular to, the arguments for parental licences, the monitoring of parents, and the provision of parenting support programmes. It also considers one area where parents exercise power over their children, namely informed consent decisions for children's research participation and medical treatment. The book argues that paternalism as a concept was not sufficient to account for the power exercised by parents. Paternalism is insufficient to account for the legitimacy of parents' power, as there are non-paternalistic forms of parental power. The book argues with the assumption that political philosophers can answer complex moral questions without giving very much consideration to the complexities of the questions raised. Such arguments about political philosophy do or should have generality of theoretical claims.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book is about parents, power, and children and, in particular, the legitimacy of parents' power over their children. It talks about the prevailing or dominant approach to the analysis of parental power. The book proposes an alternative, pluralist view of paternalism. It shows that even paternalism properly understood is of limited application when we evaluate parental power. The book addresses a number of ethical questions through practical reason and practical judgement. It looks at an example of how political philosophers tend to approach moral conflicts. The book argues for an approach influenced in part by John Rawls's account of reasonableness and Thomas Nagel's account of 'public justification in a context of actual disagreement'.
This part provides different definitions of paternalism that political philosophers employ. Based on an extended analysis of the caretaker thesis and the liberation thesis, the part argues that parental power often is not paternalistic. Parents exercise their power in ways that are not paternalistic. The concept of paternalism focuses on both the nature of power and also the role of the philosopher in considering its legitimacy.