'Because I Said So'
22 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2012 Last revised: 13 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 9, 2013
Political authority is the moral power to impose moral duties upon a perhaps unwilling citizenry. David Enoch has proposed that authority be understood as a matter of "robust" duty-giving. This paper argues that Enoch's conditions for attempted robust duty- or reason-giving are, along with his non-normative success condition, implausibly strong. Moreover, Enoch's attempt and normative- success conditions ignore two facts. The first is that success requires that citizens be tolerant of modest errors by the authority, which means that, in conditions of modest error, performing as directed must have a non-instrumental, intrinsic value. The second is that an attempt to exercise authority involves an intention to trigger a moral principle endowing conforming performances with intrinsic value. The mystery of political authority is the mystery of how official directives could possibly suffice to endow conforming performances with intrinsic value.
Keywords: authority, political obligation, intrinsic value, duty to obey the law, practical reason, virtue ethics, working papers series
JEL Classification: K00, K30, K42, K49, Z00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation