Obligation to Obey the Law – Political | WIRELESS PHILOSOPHY

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my name is matthew Chrisman I teach philosophy at the university of edinburgh and today I want to talk to you about obligations to obey the law there are laws of nature and laws of human when we obligated to obey the laws of humans and why it may seem obvious that we should obey the law after all if lots of people were to go around murdering and stealing or even just driving on the wrong side of the road society would grind to a halt and even if just a few people broke the law the rest of us might rightly resent those people for not playing fair and our collective pursuit of the benefits of mutual cooperation we should remember however that the laws of some societies are whimsical dictates of an evil despot and the even if society isnt fundamentally adjust still some of those laws may be unjust either and what they tell people to do or and how they were formed so they cant always in everywhere be an obligation to obey the law for these reasons political philosophers and legal theorists have sought a principled way to draw the line between when there is and when there isnt an obligation obey the law the basic question is this what grounds or explains the obligation to obey the law in societies where we think there is such an obligation to begin to answer this question its helpful to observe a distinction between merely complying with the law and obeying the law compliance involves doing what the law says but not for the reason that its the law for example when my tribe below the speed limit to avoid punishment or because one happens to want to do so by contrast obeying the law requires acting in part for the reason

that the law prescribes the action for there to be a moral or all things considered reason to obey the law many philosophers and legal theorists have thought that the institutions that make and enforce laws and society must have a special kind of authority the authority to prescribe actions to members of society will confer such authority traditionally many people thought that only God has absolute authority to tell people what to do so one might think that is only through the grace of God that some institutions such as the monarchy have the authority to make and enforce laws that people have an obligation to follow is no wonder that while this God based answer to our question failed says went to war or disagreements about which kings or queens really had the true grace of God as a religious conviction at many parts of the world has become less dogmatic political societies become more multi-faith than multicultural and as a result this traditional account of the obligation to obey the law has fallen out of favor nevertheless most political phosphors and legal theorists still think that the law merits obedience at least in some societies why heres one popular way to motivate this idea think the law as an institutionalized solution to a coordination problem the problem with finding a set of widely enforceable social rules compliance with which allows us to reap the rewards of mutual cooperation while mitigating the risk of harming each others interests then the question becomes what gives us a reason to obey these rules especially when we could advance our own individual interests by disobeying them two popular answers have to do with consent not actual explicit consent but hypothetical or tacit consent more precisely hypothetical consent theories say that if someone would have consented under the right

and thats enough for the law to merit their obedience tacit consent theorists say that certain actions such as living in particular territory not explicitly objecting to particular laws etc are enough to show that one consents tasseling to the laws the main challenge to these consent based theories is identifying a set of circumstances or actions that plausibly generates hypothetical or tacit consent another popular answer to our question appeals to the idea of whats fair in our collective cooperation with one another society might be thought of as a scheme for cooperation and pursuit of mutual benefit if so then there going to be some ways of participate in society which are fair to ones fellow members in other ways that are unfair in light of this fair cooperation theories say that obeying the law at least in society is generally organized around mutual benefit is what fairness requires of us the main challenge for favor operation theories is to justify the claim that obeying the law really is required for achieving mutual benefit fairly near compliance with the law might be all thats required for cheating mutual benefit moreover fairness might recommend specific treatment of specific people without requiring following the law because its the law in summary political Fosters and legal theorists are interested in what grounds the obligation to obey the laws made by humans in cases where we think we actually have such an obligation obeying the law is more than just complying with it its taken the fact that some action is prescribed by law to be a reason to perform at traditional God based attempts to ground such an obligation or difficult to make convincing in a multi-faith context other theories seek to ground this obligation a hypothetical sent tacit consent or duties of fair treatment and cooperative schemes you

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