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An exercise in pluralist political theory
Author: Allyn Fives

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.

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Allyn Fives

acted upon. For example, as Gert and Culver have shown, there is a moral conflict involved in every act of parental paternalism. When I, as a parent, act paternalistically, in attempting to do what is best for my child I violate a moral rule in regard to my child. If we cannot identify a general rule for their resolution, how can we resolve moral conflicts? In this chapter I try to show that we can do so through practical reasoning and practical judgement. In doing so, I will borrow from John Rawls and his account of reasonableness (1999 [1997]) and Thomas Nagel

in Evaluating parental power
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Philosophy, power, and parents
Allyn Fives

appropriate moral considerations and ‘the morally relevant features of situations encountered’ (Hampshire, 1978, p. 39). I also want to explore ways in which we can try to resolve moral conflicts without moral simplification and without claiming to have identified a general rule to resolve conflicts. Very much in line with the work of Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, and Stuart Hampshire, in this book I argue that it is through practical reasoning and practical judgement, and not alone through theoretical reasoning, that we can endeavour to resolve moral conflicts, and do so

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

parents’ right to privacy and the parents’ right to parent their own child. Given what we have seen already (Chapter 3) we can say that there is, therefore, a process of moral simplification whereby the significance of other, conflicting moral considerations is diminished. I want to trace the ways in which such moral simplification has occurred. However, I also want to examine opportunities both to acknowledge the presence of moral conflict and to try to resolve such conflicts through practical reasoning and practical judgement. In doing this, I will find little merit

in Evaluating parental power
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Allyn Fives

politics, on the other. Berlin himself identifies a division of labour between theoretical reflection and practical judgement: he shows that the former has not been successful in its various attempts to identify the general rule for the resolution of moral conflicts, leaving that instead in the realm of practical reasoning and practical judgement. One area where practical reasoning and judgement is required is the decision to tolerate difference. I would say that toleration of difference is not logically entailed by value pluralism. Rather, whether or not we tolerate any

in Judith Shklar and the liberalism of fear
Allyn Fives

its limits, we can only answer such questions through practical reasoning and practical judgement. Nonetheless, such practical judgements must be made with methodological rigour, and it is in relation to this issue that an important counter argument must be addressed before we proceed to deal with specific cases (see Chapter 7). For others will object that the concepts and methods we use when evaluating the power relations of adults, those appropriate to the ‘political domain’, are simply not appropriate to the normative evaluation of the relations between parents

in Evaluating parental power
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Allyn Fives

by parents, I intended this as a general theoretical claim. At the same time, we can be doing quite applied work, and this requires that we look closely at cases, and make decisions based on practical judgements in those cases. However, when we make practical judgements in specific cases, we also claim a kind of generality in our reasoning. So what should we say when asked to apply arguments made in respect of one case to another case? The honest answer in most scenarios is ‘I cannot answer your question with full confidence just yet. It may be that, after careful

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

possibility of moral dilemmas presents us with our central methodological and conceptual challenge, and it is to this that I now turn (Chapter 3). If moral claims can pull in different directions, demanding different and incompatible things from us, how are we to make moral judgements? In the next chapter, I will try to show that we cannot do so by identifying the general rule for the resolution of moral conflicts. Instead, we will be required to work through moral dilemmas where they arise, that is, by engaging in practical reasoning and practical judgement in the contexts

in Evaluating parental power
Allyn Fives

in the political domain, as it is defined by Rawls and others, they are required in regard to the family as well. However, I also want to say more about the requirement of moral objectivity where competing moral claims are in conflict. In Chapter 3, I argued that we should resolve dilemmas through a form of practical reasoning and practical judgement owing much to liberal thinkers such as Rawls and Thomas Nagel. In this chapter, I explore whether such a ‘liberal’ approach to practical judgement is appropriate when we consider moral dilemmas in situations liberals

in Evaluating parental power
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Allyn Fives

children’s right to liberty. However, the way in which science and ethics have been brought together, above, is not completely satisfactory. As we saw in the last chapter, when we make practical judgements about the legitimacy of parents’ power, we should incorporate empirical data of various kinds, including findings from scientific studies of the effects of parenting practice on children’s development of agency. Empirical evidence can inform us about the different possible options available, for example, the four different parenting styles discussed above. At the same

in Evaluating parental power