Slides in this set
Political obligation is the obligation to obey the law
because it is the law other than moral justification
for doing what certain laws requires. For example,
it could be argued that we shouldn't drive
recklessly because it can harm others; this gives
a moral reason why to obey the law. It is different
to say that we shouldn't drive recklessly because
it is against the law; this gives us an obligation to
obey this law, not the others.
If this is our only justification for "why we obey the
law?" then specific moral reasons are given for
specific laws then there is no political obligation.
Political obligation questions whether we have a
general obligation to obey the law or an obligation
to obey certain laws; and why do we have this
Hume argued that laws and the state are the most
efficient means of securing peace and stability.
He felt that we should explain why we feel that we
should obey the laws and argue that our feeling is
right the benefits we receive give us the
obligation to obey.…read more
It has been objected that it is rational for us to
obey the law is not enough for use to have an
obligation to do so. An obligation is a duty to be
bound to do something; the question of obligation
goes beyond the question of what is rational to do,
because we can ask whether we have an
obligation to act rationally.
There is an issue with this; because we recognize
individuals to be free and equal, the law however
coerces people to act in specific ways. How can it
be considered right to coerce people who are free
and equal? One belief in political philosophy
suggests that the answer to this is that somehow
the individual has agreed to obey the laws of the
Giving consent is certainly the way we acquire
many other obligations. For example, if I make a
promise, I am agreeing to acting in a way that
keeps my promise. Perhaps political obligation
also comes from consent.…read more
The strongest form of this answer claims that
individuals must explicitly consent to the rule
of the state for them to have an obligation to
"Men being...by nature all free, equal and
independent, no one can be put out of this
estate and subjected to the political power of
another without his own consent," Locke
Locke realised that if this actually had
occurred, then it would only occur with the
first generation of society.
For everyone that would born into society
there was no such consent given; meaning
people have not explicitly consented to be
ruled, we were never offered the choice.
If explicit consent were the basis of
obligation, then we would have no obligation
to obey the law of the society in which we
Voting seems to be the closest thing to some
sort of consent. This is certainly the closest
we come to saying that we agree to be
For voting to be the basis of political
obligation, it must be an act of consent. The
view that voting is consent must claim that
people who vote for the opposition are just as
much giving their consent to obey the rules of
the successful party.
With explicit consent, if I do not consent to
the state, then I cannot claim that I have
I do not explicitly consent to something until I
actually have done and say it.
Hence if I do not intend my vote to be
consent to obey the laws passed by the
elected government, then the mere fact that I
voted cannot be taken as an expression of
Knowing that explicit consent was hard to
secure, Locke developed a theory of `tacit'
consent; consent that is not spoken, but may
be understood to have been given.
"every man that hath any possession or
enjoyment of any part of the dominions of any
government doth hereby give his tacit
consent...whether this his possession be of
land to him and his heirs for ever...or whether
it be barely travelling freely on the highway"
Consent is only meaningful if dissent is
possible; you can only meaningfully consent if
you have a choice in the matter.
Hume pointed out a flaw "such an implied
consent can only have place where a man
imagines that the matter depends on his
A 2nd objection is that it is difficult to see how
just walking on a road could express consent
to obey all the various laws a government has