'Because I Said So'

22 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2012 Last revised: 13 Feb 2013

See all articles by William A. Edmundson

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law

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

Edmundson, William A., 'Because I Said So' (February 9, 2013). Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-24, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2165428 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2165428

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

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