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The Duty to Obey the Law

Selected Philosophical Readings

Edited by William A. Edmundson - Contributions by Leslie Green; Kent Greenawalt; Nancy J. Hirschmann; George Klosko; Mark C. Murphy; John Rawls; Joseph Raz; Rolf Sartorius; A John Simmons; M.B.E Smith; Philip Soper; Jeremy Waldron; Richard A. Wasserstrom and Robert Paul Wolff

The question, "Why should I obey the law?" introduces a contemporary puzzle that is as old as philosophy itself. The puzzle is especially troublesome if we think of cases in which breaking the law is not otherwise wrongful, and in which the chances of getting caught are negligible. Philosophers from Socrates to H.L.A. Hart have struggled to give reasoned support to the idea that we do have a general moral duty to obey the law but, more recently, the greater number of learned voices has expressed doubt that there is any such duty, at least as traditionally conceived.

The thought that there is no such duty poses a challenge to our ordinary understanding of political authority and its legitimacy. In what sense can political officials have a right to rule us if there is no duty to obey the laws they lay down? Some thinkers, concluding that a general duty to obey the law cannot be defended, have gone so far as to embrace philosophical anarchism, the view that the state is necessarily illegitimate. Others argue that the duty to obey the law can be grounded on the idea of consent, or on fairness, or on other ideas, such as community.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 362Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-8476-9254-5 • Hardback • December 1998 • $112.00 • (£75.00)
978-0-8476-9255-2 • Paperback • December 1998 • $49.00 • (£32.95)
978-0-7425-7751-0 • eBook • December 1998 • $46.00 • (£31.95)
William A. Edmundson is professor at Georgia State University College of Law. He is the author of Three Anarchical Fallacies: An Essay on Political Authority (1998, Cambridge University Press).
Part 1 Acknowledgments
Part 2 Introduction
Chapter 3 1 The Obligation to Obey the Law
Chapter 4 2 The Justification of Civil Disobedience
Chapter 5 3 The Conflict between Authority and Autonomy
Chapter 6 4 Is There a Prima Facie Obligation to Obey the Law?
Chapter 7 5 The Principle of Fair Play
Chapter 8 6 Political Authority and Political Obligation
Chapter 9 7 The Obligation to Obey: Revision and Tradition
Chapter 10 8 Legitimate Authority and the Duty to Obey
Chapter 11 9 Presumptive Benefit, Fairness, and Political Obligation
Chapter 12 10 Legal Theory and the Claim of Authority
Chapter 13 11 Freedom, Recognition, and Obligation: A Feminist Approach to Political Theory
Chapter 14 12 Special Ties and Natural Duties
Chapter 15 13 Who Believes in Political Obligation?
Chapter 16 14 Surrender of Judgment and the Consent Theory of Political Authority
Part 17 Index
This volume brings together the most important recent work on the question of political obligation. It is an excellent collection of the central work in the field...
Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy

Edmundson's anthology is full of well-selected readings that define the range of the problem in its most current incarnation. His contributions and summaries are insightful and will promote valuable discussion.
Philosophy in Review

—Essays by some of today's leading legal and political philosophers

—The most recent, comprehensive collection of essays on the subject

—The only existing anthology that directly addresses the question of our duty to obey the law

—Accessible to both undergraduates and the general educated reader

—Introductions to each essay that set the general context and characterize the essays

—For your courses in moral, political, and legal philosophy