Consent, Coercion, and Hard Choices
Jeffrie G. Murphy
Arizona State University College of Law
Virginia Law Review, Vol. 67, p. 79, 1981
Many, including the author of this article, have quoted approvingly Hume’s criticism of the Lockean notion of tacit consent as a foundation for political obligation. Many have quoted the passage without comment, as though it constituted a self-explanatory and self-evidently sound refutation of such doctrines. This should not be the case, however, for the argument demands analysis, criticism and perhaps even rejection in part. This article begins that discussion. While it might seem natural to think that an autonomous person can be morally bound only by those rules to which he has freely consented, the most obvious and important rules of our moral life (‘Do not kill;' ‘Do not rape;' ‘Do not steal’) are rules to which we have never consented. The duty claim ‘Obey the law’, however, does not, manifest this intrinsic obviousness. This duty is not self-evident and seems to require that the duty be established as an obligation growing out of some act of consent. In cases where we really cannot perceive the intrinsic claim of the situation as our reason for acting, we then need second-order reasons, such as an obligation to act in conformity with consent.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Keywords: Lockean Theory of Tacit Consent, David Hume, Philosophy of Law
Date posted: August 27, 2009
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