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Lecture 5January 16.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 231
Arash Abizadeh

Lecture 5 January 16 1. Authority Authority is the right to be able to command others. It’s correlative to the duty of the subject to obey. This right is a moral notion, not only the mere power (descriptive sense) but the right thing (normative sense) Authority and obeying command a. not by virtue of independently good reasons difference between conforming to the command and obeying the command. Ex: - the teacher asks us to leave the room because there is a fire. If we leave, we conform to the command because there is a fire. Our decision is dependent on the content (the fact that there is a fire) - Leaving the room because the teacher says so. In this case we are obeying the order simply because it comes from an authoritative figure, the teacher. Our decision is content independent: we leave not because there is a fire, but obey the command simply by virtue of the person’s position. The same can be applied to legitimacy. 2. Wolff Engaging in moral philosophy is a responsibility of every individual and it shows that people have freedom of will. You have a duty to reflect ethically on how to live. It is our duty to live an examined life. Moral autonomy: making your own decision is exercising your moral autonomy. Authority Vs autonomy: - authority: one who exercises moral autonomy does not obey any external commands. Your actions may conform to other’s commands (because they happen to concur with your decisions: I conform to the law that prohibits smoking because I personally think smoking is bad), but you do not obey any external commands. If you do, you lose your autonomy (e.g I follow the law that prohibits smoking even though I want to smoke). - autonomy: authority is the right to rule, autonomy is the refusal to be ruled. Wolff argues that there is no such thing as a legitimate authority because authority is only legitimate when it keeps individual autonomy. Since autonomy is defined as “the ability to follow one’s own deci
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