Autonomy, Authority, and Answerability

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Autonomy seems to require that we engage in practical deliberation and come to our own decisions regarding how we will act. Deference to authority, by contrast, seems to require that we suspend deliberation and do what the authority commands precisely because he or she commands it. How, then, could autonomy be compatible with deference to authority? In his critique of Razian instrumentalism, Stephen Darwall lays the groundwork for a distinctively contractualist answer to this question: the normative force of an authoritative directive depends, he argues, on the addressee's free and rational acceptance of the reason addressed to her. But how are we to make sense of free and rational acceptance, when deference to authority requires that one relinquish deliberative discretion? I attempt to resolve this puzzle by outlining a conception of reasonable trust in authority, which, while contractualist in spirit, makes room for a core element of Raz's instrumentalist account.


Document Type: Short Communication


Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • Jurisprudence provides a forum for scholarly writing on the philosophy of law. While demanding the utmost intellectual honesty, clarity and scholarly rigour, its editorial policy is distinctively open-minded in relation to philosophical approach. A main purpose of the journal is to encourage scholarship which explores and transcends the categories and assumptions on which contemporary jurisprudential debates are conducted, and to stimulate reflection upon traditional questions concerning the nature of law, politics and society. The journal's unique reviews section will provide in-depth discussion and analysis of major developments in the field. Jurisprudence aims: " to encourage research exploring the relation between questions in the philosophy of law and debates in related branches of philosophy, including but not limited to political philosophy, moral philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind; " to support study of the intellectual history of the philosophy of law, both for its own sake and in order to shed light on contemporary jurisprudential questions; " to encourage careful research illuminating relations between jurisprudential questions and theoretical debates in anthropology, sociology, cultural and literary studies. Replies and correspondence pieces will be generally discouraged, although may be acceptable if the intention is to deepen and extend an original line of thought, and not merely to reiterate or amplify an earlier argument.

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