The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality

The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality

The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality

The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality

Synopsis

This book is concerned with the nature of law and its relation to morality, concentrating on the proper moral attitude of a citizen towards the law of his country. The author begins by presenting a new analysis of the concept of legitimate authority and then gives a detailed explanation ofthe legal positivist's approach to law. Within this framework the author examines several areas where legal analysis is often thought to be impregnated with moral values, namely the social functions of law, the ideals of the rule of law, and the role of the courts. The last part of the book is devoted to some key substantive problems. The author argues that there is no obligation to obey the law. He provides a new analysis of respect for law, emphasizing its moral importance. The author maintains there is no right to civil disobedience in a liberal state(though actos of civil disobedience may occasionally be justified even in such a state) and he argues for a right of conscientious objection in certain areas.

Excerpt

The law claims our allegiance and obedience. Every legal system claims authority. But what authority has the law over us? What authority should we acknowledge as due to the law? This is the main question this book attempts to answer. What kind of an answer can philosophy provide? Unrealistic expectations at the outset are bound to lead to unjustified disappointment. The question is of great practical importance in so many aspects of daily life. Its importance is growing as the law penetrates more and more into every corner of social and individual activity. But the deeper the law's penetration into various aspects of life the more complex the problem of the authority of law becomes and the more one despairs of the possibility of a general philosophical answer to it.

Consider any man in any of a large number of rather common situations. Consider, for example, a headmaster objecting to the routing of a bypass near his school. How should he behave? Should he confine himself to presenting his case in the local public inquiry? Or should he try to disrupt the inquiry since he knows that it is, by law, weighted against his cause? Should he organize a massive local sit-in? Or choose some other course of action? Since so many considerations have to be taken into account, their combination may well make the case unique. The nature of the harm the implementation of the proposed plan will cause, the benefits it will bring, the chances of having it changed by the various possible courses of action open to him, the danger that it will be replaced by a worse plan, the cost of his action to the school in terms of reputation, affecting, for example, possibilities of raising money from old members, its impact on his standing in the eyes of his students, its consequences to his personal and family life--do philosophers really examine or need to examine all these considerations?

The answer must be both yes and no. The difficulty of each individual case arises because of the particular way in which general considerations combine in it. Philosophical deliberation helps to determine which general considerations are relevant to practical decisions and it improves our understanding of their value and importance. This understanding is most . . .

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