Conscientious Objection and Civil Disobedience

25 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2012

Date Written: June 25, 2012


This paper looks at two types of dissent that are generally described as conscientious, namely, civil disobedience and conscientious objection. Both practices raise pressing normative questions about the proper parameters of dissenters’ rights and duties in a reasonably good society. They also raise questions about both the scope of legitimate toleration of assertions of conscientiousness and the appropriate legal and political responses to conscientious disobedience. The paper gives a qualified endorsement of the moral justifiability of these two practices. It also explores their credentials as moral rights and their legal defensibility. The paper challenges the dominant liberal view that, in relation to both moral rights and legal defenses, a more compelling case can be made for private conscientious objection than for civil disobedience.

Keywords: Civil disobedience, Conscientious objection, Dissent, Justification, Legal defensibility, Moral rights, Toleration

Suggested Citation

Brownlee, Kimberley, Conscientious Objection and Civil Disobedience (June 25, 2012). Warwick School of Law Research Paper No. 2012/15, Available at SSRN:

Kimberley Brownlee (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

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