'Because Everyone Thinks So': Hume on Authority and Common Opinion
23 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2010 Last revised: 5 May 2015
Date Written: October 1, 2010
Many legal and political philosophers think that common attitudes to authority impose powerful constraints on justification. In particular, they often think sceptical theories are objectionably inconsistent with the common view that everyone has a duty to obey the law. The most influential argument of this sort is due to David Hume, and it is his version that is tested here. The paper argues that common opinion lacks is less probative than Hume thinks, and that his related objections to consent theory fail. There is no reason to think our common views of political authority are what Hume and others think they are. There is no reason to exempt widely-held common views about moral matters from scrutiny in light of the genesis of those views. There is reason to think that, in politics as in religion, what Hume called 'superstitions' are quite common.
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