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On Becoming an Adult: Autonomy and the Moral Relevance of Life’s Stages

May 27 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

What is it about a person’s becoming an adult that makes it generally inappropriate to treat that person paternalistically any longer? The Standard View holds that a mere difference in age or stage of life cannot in itself be morally relevant, but only matters insofar as it is correlated with the development of capacities for mature practical reasoning.

This paper defends the contrary view: two people can have all the same general psychological attributes and yet the mere fact that one person is at the beginning of a life and another in the middle of one can justify treating the younger person more paternalistically than the older one. Recognising the moral relevance of age, moreover, is crucial if one is to accommodate both the liberal moral ideal of respect for autonomy and our demanding educational aims, given that these otherwise come into conflict with one another.


This meetup is hosted by Derwin over at the Toronto Philosophy Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/The-Toronto-Philosophy-Meetup

We’ll be discussing Andrew Franklin-Hall’s paper “On Becoming an Adult: Autonomy and the Moral Relevance of Life’s Stages”, originally published in the journal The Philosophical Quarterly in 2013.

Please have the paper read in advance (25 pages).

Franklin-Hall’s paper can be viewed and downloaded here: https://booksc.xyz/book/34094387/be50f4

The Zoom link will be posted shortly before the event.


Andrew Franklin-Hall is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, a Faculty Associate at the University of Toronto’s Centre For Ethics, and a Faculty Affiliate at the Joint Centre for Bioethics.


His research interests include ethics, philosophy of the emotions, social and political philosophy, bioethics, and philosophy of education:

“The driving theme in much of my research involves exploring the ethical importance of leading a life. The basic idea is that many ethical questions are best considered within the context of a whole life, not abstractly in terms of timeless, ageless agents. One aspect of this lies in thinking about how different stages of life — e.g., childhood, early adulthood, middle-age, old age — may be valuable in distinctive ways. A second aspect turns on the thought that the ethical significance of what is happening to a person at one point in time is frequently dependent on its relation to the rest of her life. “


Optional background readings in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

— “Autonomy in Moral and Political Philosophy” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/autonomy-moral/
— “Personal Autonomy” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/personal-autonomy/
— “The Philosophy of Childhood” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/childhood/
— “Children’s Rights” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights-children/
— “The Grounds of Moral Status” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/grounds-moral-status/
— “Philosophy of Education” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/education-philosophy/
— “Parenthood and Procreation” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/parenthood/
— “Paternalism” – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/paternalism/