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Lecture 6

PHILOS 1B03 Lecture 6: Authority & Obedience

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James Sikemma

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Jan.30/17 Authority & Obedience – Bentham, Wolff, Plato What is it that gives the law its legitimacy? What gives it authority? BENTHAM - It is UTILITY that grounds the authority of the state and the duty of citizens to obey state authority o UTILITARIANISM – Those actions are good that promote the greatest happiness (utility) for the greatest number of people (happiness = more pleasure/less pain) - Why keep a promise? o ‘It is for the advantage of society they should keep them; and if they do not, that, as far as punishment will go, they should be made to keep them. It is for the advantage of the whole number that the promises of each individual should be kept … Such is the benefit to gain, and mischief to avoid, by keeping them, as much more than compensates the mischief of so much punishment as is requisite to oblige men to it. (69) - Politicians should practice utilitarianism - Consequences are bad - The duty to obey the State lasts as long as the benefits of obedience outweighs the costs of disobedience… ‘It is their duty to obey, just so long as it is their interest, and no longer’ (69) o It makes no sense to say that it is by virtue of a contract that one party promises to rule and the other promises to obey…why not? - Experiment: A sovereign promises to rule by fiat (by virtue of saying so), not law; a people promise to obey no matter what the sovereign does; the constant observance of their promise to obey state authority constantly produces ‘mischief’…’would it then be men’s duty to observe them? Would it then be right to make Laws, and apply punishment to oblige men to observe them?’ (69) o Because these promises undermine utility, they are non-binding. Government authority is legitimate only as long as its rule provides benefit to the greatest number. If the condition of utility is met, the duty of citizens to obey follows, and not otherwise. WOLFF - ALL claims of legitimate governmental authority are baseless…There is no such thing as legitimate state authority o Can they give you a reason beyond coercive force why we should obey them? o Moral Assumption: individuals are responsible for their actions - Responsibility for actions means obeying one’s own commands (Autonomy)...: “for the autonomous man, there’s no such thing strictly speaking, as a command.” (76) o But, if autonomy, then anarchy (viz. no state authority)… ‘anarchism is the only political doctrine consistent with the virtue of autonomy’ (76) o Why? - Obedience to an external command (Heteronomy) may coincide with an individual’s autonomous command, but this coincidence does not involve acknowledgement of another’s claim to authority. Jan.30/17 - We have no obligation to obey state laws, ‘simply because they are the laws’ (76) o We may comply with laws for some good reasons (‘the value of order,’ ‘general good consequences of preserving a system of property’, etc.) - But the commands of the state never obtain the status of legitimacy because the only ‘de jure’ (by rightful claim) legitimate authority is th
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