The Good Bishop and the Explanation of Political Authority
Keywords:Bishop Berkeley, ceteris-paribus rules, divine commands, passive obedience, political authority, rule-consequentialism
AbstractA central problem of political philosophy is that of explaining how a state could have the moral authority to enforce laws, promulgate laws which citizens are thereby obliged to obey, give new duties to citizens and levy taxes. Many rival solutions to this problem of political authority have been offered by contemporary and recent philosophers but none has obtained wide acceptance. The current debate takes no cognisance of George Berkeley’s ‘Passive Obedience’, in which he defends the exceptionless duty of not using force to resist the state and offers a rule-consequentialist account of morality which indicates an explanation of political authority as grounded in the social connectedness of human beings. I expound, criticise and develop Berkeley’s explanation to provide a promising solution to the problem of political authority. The solution impugns the political authority of all existing states as well as the duty of passive obedience.
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