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Philosophy: John Locke, David Hume Essay

1412 words - 6 pages

This is a philosophical question that has been proven ultimately difficult to answer. I believe it is as a result of the complexity of the consent theory. For a theory that places high emphasis on autonomy and freedom, the most obvious basis for legitimate political authority should be some form of voluntary, self-assumed obligation. However, some philosophers such as John Locke and Charles Beitz argue that tacit consent can ground obligation to obey the state’s law while others such as Hanna Pitkin and David Hume counter this argument with the opinion that tacit consent is not sufficient to ground political obligation. Having an obligation simply put, means something one is bound to do for ...view middle of the document...

Obeying the law is more like a continual practice or protocol that has been imbibed in their culture. So, to say that they consent to the laws of the state is implausible as it can only be actual consent when it has been given intentionally, knowingly and voluntarily by the potential consenter. Moreover, the opportunity to actually consent or dissent to obeying the laws of the state was not made available for people. There was no free choice. Should those who have lived in that country their whole lives be then asked to leave to show dissent?
John Locke argues that people who actively participate in the institutions of the state in ways like; using the public library, calling the fire department or the police to help or even sending children to public school tacitly consent to obeying the laws. Tacit consent is not spoken but might have been understood to have been given through the presence or absence of certain actions. In my opinion some people could live in a country only because they are loyal to the country but not to the government. The idea that people ought to leave the country to show dissent is extreme and unreasonable in the sense that it leaves no free choice for people who cannot afford to migrate. It also does not satisfy the fourth and fifth condition of John Simmons which it states that “the means acceptable for indicating dissent must be reasonable and reasonably performed. Asking people to leave is very unreasonable. The fifth condition goes on to say that “the consequence of dissent cannot be extremely detrimental to potential consenters. David Hume was able to buttress this argument by asking a question. He said: “can we seriously say that a poor peasant or artisan has a free choice to leave the country, when he knows no foreign language or manners and live from day to day, by the small wages which he acquires?” I see John Locke’s argument as a principle of gratitude and reciprocity which is under the fair play theory but not consent. In this case, consent to obeying the law is based on assumptions of the intentions of the actor. It is rather thought of as an implied consent. Consent in both its theoretical and practical view must be given intentionally. It is thus worthwhile to question whether political obligation is now more of being than doing as suggested by John Locke.
Consent is given when one agrees without coercion due to the fact that we ought to be treated equally and free. In the case of an arbitrary government, some people simply obey the laws to avoid being denounced a criminal thus avoiding any punishment for breaking the states command. This does not show consent in anyway. In such cases, people are not free and do not have a choice. There are some people who obey the state’s law because it is the right thing to do. For instance, a lot of people think that obeying the traffic lights is rational and so they obey it. This correlates with the view that one has a duty to act...

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