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Christopher W. Morris on Obedience - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 202
Obedience/Morris: the right to rule is often thought of as entailing obligations to obedience. Trivially we have an obligation to obey any valid (obligation-creating) law. If an obligation-creating law is valid and applies to us, then we are obligated. Often it is said that this obligation is merely 'legal' and not necessarily 'moral'. A more than minimal conception of legitimacy would construe the right to rule as entailing a moral obligation to obey the law. If a state is legitimate in this stronger sense then it would be wrong or unjust for a citizen to violate a valid law (except in special circumstances). >Legitimacy/Morris, >State/Morris, >Command/Hart, >Authority/Morris.
Gaus I 205
Full legitimacy is required for a general obligation to obey the law. ((s) For the concept of „minimal legitimacy“ see >Legitimacy/Morris.)
Morris: But we can ask what follows from such an obligation. As I have said, a general obligation to obey the law requires compliance with every law that applies to one except in circumstances indicated by the law (e.g. justified or excused disobedience).
Internalism/externalism: It is commonly assumed that someone so obligated always has a reason (of a stringent or pre-emptive kind) to comply. But it is possible to deny this and to assume that obligations do not always entail reasons to comply. The first position is often labelled a kind of 'internalism' in moral theory and the latter 'externalism'.
Morris: It is possible to think that states can be fully legitimate but that citizens lack reasons to comply, in which case they would not necessarily have more reasons to comply with the law than they would if the state in question were merely minimally legitimate. Without the assumption that obligations always provide stringent or pre-emptive reasons, full legitimacy is not much more demanding than minimal legitimacy.


Morris, Christopher W. 2004. „The Modern State“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Morris, Christopher W.
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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