Legitimate political authority and the duty of those subject to it: A critique of Edmundson

Law and Philosophy 23 (4):399-435 (2004)

Abstract

According to William Edmundson, a legitimatepolitical authority is one that claims tocreate in its subjects a general duty ofobedience to the law, and that succeeds increating in its subjects a duty to obey stateofficials when they apply the law in particularcases. His argument that legitimate politicalauthority does not require the state''s claim tobe true rests on his analysis of legitimatetheoretical authority, and the assumption thattheoretical and practical authority are thesame in the relevant respects, both of whichare challenged here. In addition, Edmundsonfails to demonstrate that a general,content-independent, duty to obey officials whoadminister the law avoids the criticismsphilosophical anarchists pose to a general,content-independent duty to obey the law. Finally, Edmundson requires a legitimate stateto sincerely claim to create a generalduty to obey the law, yet he also argues thatin some cases the state ought to make literallyfalse claims regarding the particular dutiesincumbent upon its subjects. DespiteEdmundson''s recent efforts to reconcile thesetwo claims, the conflict remains

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David Lefkowitz
University of Richmond

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Citations of this work

Political Obligation.Richard Dagger - unknown - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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