Can A Free Person Ever Obey The Law? Jurisprudence Essay

1182 words - 5 pages

Freedom is one of the most sought after values in the world. Humanity strives to be free, to make our own choices and decisions without being constrained by others. Many people deem themselves to be free. However, Philosophical Anarchists such as Robert Paul Wolff put forward the argument that political authority contradicts individual autonomy. This essay will critique the Philosophical Anarchist point of view that authority is incompatible with autonomy by showing that Wolff was misguided in his over simplification of human autonomy, his definition of authority and his general notion that the state is against freedom.

In his book in Defense of Anarchism, Wolff claims that autonomy and authority are incompatible. That every rational individual has an obligation to assume responsibility for their own actions.[footnoteRef:1] He takes a Kantian approach to individual autonomy, that in order for a person to be autonomous, they must be free to make their own decisions.[footnoteRef:2] He believes authority to require heteronomous action, which violates individual autonomy. As Wolff puts it: “the defining mark of the state is authority, the right to rule. The primary obligation of man is autonomy, the refusal to be ruled.”[footnoteRef:3] This leads him to the assumption that by following the directives of an authority, we are impeding the primacy of reason and autonomy.[footnoteRef:4] Thus, he comes to the conclusion that authority is incompatible with autonomy, meaning all authority is illegitimate and there exists no obligation to obey it. According to Wolff, one can come to the same conclusion to that of the law, however one has a moral obligation to come to that conclusion autonomously.[footnoteRef:5] [1: Robert Paul Wolff ‘In Defense of Anarchism’ (1970).] [2: ibid.] [3: Ibid.] [4: Emmanuel Ifeanyi Ani ‘Responding to Robert Wolff’s in Defense of Anarchism’ (2014).] [5: Ibid, 1.]

Razian Authority takes a different approach to that of Wolff’s Philosophical Anarchism. Raz created a system of practical reasoning that places normative primacy on reasons for action.[footnoteRef:6] “My claim is that a useful explanation of the notions of strength, weight and overriding is possible but only at the cost of restricting the scope of application and that if we embark on such an explication the theory of conflict must allow for the existence of other logical types of conflict and conflict resolution.”[footnoteRef:7] Raz believes that Wolff’s notion that every decision weighs on the balance of reasons is too narrow an approach when considering conflicts between reasons.[footnoteRef:8] [6: Jason Thomas Craig, ‘Raz and His Critics: A Defense of Razian Authority’ (2009).] [7: ibid.] [8: Joseph Raz ‘The Authority of Law’ Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.]

Raz defines two types of reasons: first order reasons and second order reasons. First order reasons, which mean to simply weigh reasons and act on the heavier side. Second order reasons...

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