Political Philosophy – Should we obey the state?

How the state operates:

- Threats and incentives (not only this – or it would be the mafia) - Claims the moral right to command in the forms of laws/executive instructions - Claims citizens have duty to obey

Posing the problem:

What states claim for themselves - Law says you ought to do X - Therefore you ought to do X

Even states with constitutions. They are all alterable, amendable. Individuals do not have the right to pick and choose. State claims unlimited authority. They can command torture, or for you to hop on one legg every Tuesday.

Self defence seems like an exception, but the state gets to define what that means. The state has unlimited right to dictate to us.

Philosophical Anarchists:

Paul Wolff – is an a priori philosophical anarchists. They say that no state could have that authority. They embrase a strong view about moral agency and personal responsibility. To be a responsible moral agent you have a duty to make decisions and think things through for yourself. If you ‘take orders’ you have abandoned what makes it possible for you to function as a moral agent.

Simmons – holds a posteriori No existing state exercises legitimate authority. Politicians clam to govern by consent, but none of us have given it. Thought they could have authority over us, they don’t, because they need our consent.

You may give consent, but then the state may betray you by committing immoral acts.

We didn’t give consent. Perhaps voting is a mark of consent, or taking out a student loan, but not really. No one said beforehand that it is a mark of consent.

Not plausible to meet the consent condition, but is it really necessary? Our duties to family members or friends are not established by consent (at least not by verbal consent, perhaps our presence is our consent).

Practical Reasoning:

- Crude model: Reasons lead to Actions - A decision is made based on “balance of reasons”.

Exclusionary Reasons: - other reasons interact when added to the mix and silence other reasons. - E.g. duties, promises, when they’re not conflicting are exclusionary. E.g. duty to send birthday card to mother excludes what I might feel like doing. Or promising to meet someone somewhere may function as an exclusionary reason that rules out other considerations.

Authority claims are a species of exclusionary reason. They tell you to: - Set aside our own set of reasons and act on someone else’s instructions (I’m doing this now in the lecture to the lecturer to a small extent). Their authoritative command is the reason for action independent of the specific facts of the case. - The legitimate authority weighs the reasons.

Raz’s “normal justification thesis”

“The normal and primary way to establish that a person should be acknowledged to have authority over another person involves showing that the alleged subject is likely better to comply with reasons which apply to him (other than the alleged authoritative directives) if he accepts the directives of the alleged authority as authoritatively binding, and tries to follow them, than if he tries to follow the reasons which apply to him directly.”

Ie. If you accept authority you are better able to act on the reasons that apply to you.

Examples: Expert authority seems to fit Raz’ model.

Cookery – if you want to bake the best cake you should accept a chef’s/instructions authority over you. Reason men don’t like reading instructions is because you are surrendering your authority to the author of them.

Or e.g. take an experts advice like warren buffet on investing, or a doctors advice.

Arbitration – referee’s are arbitrators. If two people want to compromise but can’t then an arbitrator looks at the facts and makes a decision. Our reasons are excluded by the arbitrator, who’s authority is submitted to.

Does the state fit this model of authority?

Is it better to follow the state with these issues? - health and safety, drugs, crash helmets, pornography, pensions. - My expertise may outstrip that of the government and/or its advisors. E.g. Professor Nutt knows more than the government.

So there are credential issues, but the state allows us to do all kinds of things we can’t do on our own. It co-ordinates our activities.

===== Conventions: ===== (they can be good – like driving on the left)

- Property - Money - Measurement - PD - Justice and distribution (fair play)

Do we have a duty to bring about a more just society?

Which state? - other states may have better laws, but not better if people don’t obey them (driving all over the road etc).


Philosophical anarchism is correct. We do not have reason to obey the authority of the state.

Political Philosophy

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