Obeying the Law
38 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2018 Last revised: 18 Apr 2019
Date Written: August 6, 2018
What is it to obey the law? What is it to disobey? These questions have received remarkably little attention. The inattention is remarkable because answers to them are largely assumed in vast literatures in legal and political philosophy, for example as to whether there is a duty to obey the law, whether authorities demand obedience, and whether civil disobedience is ever justified. A common view, more often assumed than argued for, is that obedience consists in acting for a certain sort of reason – for the reason that the law requires that one so act. That view has recently come in for criticism, but I think the view and the criticism are both inadequate, because both understand the relevant phenomena solely in terms of the concepts of a reason for action and acting for a reason. I argue, instead, that both obeying and civilly disobeying the law require acting intentionally with a certain sort of knowledge, knowledge which bears a distinctive relation to the action required or forbidden by law. I refine and elaborate these claims, in hopes of clarifying what is at stake in the debates about civil disobedience, authority, and political obligation in legal and political philosophy.
Keywords: Obedience, authority, civil disobedience, jurisprudence, legal philosophy, political obligation
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K14, K30, K40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation