April 3, 2014
Robert Paul Wolff
-autonomy and authority and genuinely incompatible because authority isn’t just power, it’s
someone who claims to have power over you and you concede that right. That implies that you
have agreed consented to that authority.
• Illegitimate and immoral
• 2 options: either we must embrace philosophical anarchism and treat all governments as
non-legitimate bodes…or else we must give up…autonomy in the political realm and
submit ourselves by an implicit promise to whatever forms of government appears most
just and beneficent at the moment. I cannot resist repeating yet again that…there is no
universal or a priori reason for binding ourselves to a democratic government rather than
to any other sort. In some situations, it may be wiser to seart allegian to a benevolent and
• But it is out of the question to give up the commitment to moral autonomy. Mena are no
better than children if they not only accept the rule of others from force of necessity, but
embrace it willingly and forfeit their duty uncasinlg to weight the merits of the actions
which they perform…I am then guilty of what Kant might have called the sin of willful
• Is this view correct?
• A.J. Simmons 1979 – defending philosophical anarchism
• First objection: Promising (commitment) and autonomy are NOT incompatible
• Suppose political obligation derives from something akin to a promise, or an “implicit
• Placing oneself under an obligation through promising is NOT incompatible with
autonomy, and on the contrary is an aspect of autonomy for zooi politikoi
• When you make a promise, you limit your freedom – place yourself under an obligation;
no longer free to do what you’d like.
Locke – commitments are required for us to successfully participate in social life;
reliance, trust, contracts, etc.
• Promises and obligation are essential for rational agents engage in joint projects, from
work to marriage, as well as joint rule. It is an essential property of voluntary koinoniae. • Given that promises and commitments are essential requirements of social life, they are
essential means at the disposal of rational/linguistic beings for engaging in communal
life. It follows that so far from their (1) not being contrary to autonomous rational