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The Duty to Obey the Law



Under what conditions, if any, do those the law addresses have a moral duty or obligation to obey it simply because it is the law? In this essay, I identify five general approaches to carrying out this task, and offer a somewhat detailed discussion of one or two examples of each approach. The approaches studied are: relational-role approaches that appeal to the fact that an agent occupies the role of member in the political community; attempts to ground the duty to obey the law in individual consent or fair play; natural duty approaches; instrumental approaches; and philosophical anarchism, an approach that denies that most subjects of contemporary states have a duty to obey the law simply in virtue of its status as such.

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