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Title: Authority, philosophical anarchism, and legitimacy
Author: Farris, Jeremy Daniel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2691 1320
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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One way to prompt people to act is to claim that one’s commands impose duties upon some persons to act and subsequently to command those persons. This is the approach of practical authority. The claim of practical authority is ingredient to a predominant conception of the state. This thesis argues that the state’s claim to practical authority is both unjustified and morally wrong; it defends philosophical anarchism. The philosophical anarchist argument advanced here begins with a defence of a presumption against practical authority. It then argues that no argument for the practical authority of the state overcomes that presumption. Thus the state’s claim to practical authority is unjustified. The philosophical anarchist’s position suggests that we rethink both the normative claim ingredient to the concept of the state and the relationship between states and persons. This thesis suggests that states claim legitimacy – that is, states claim that the potentially coercive legal directives that they enact are all-things-considered morally permissible. The thesis outlines the ideal of legitimacy in political philosophy, an ideal distinct from authority. An analysis of legitimacy requires an analysis of coercion. The thesis develops a specific account of the pro tanto wrongfulness of coercion that locates the wrongfulness of coercion not with the badness of the outcomes that the coercee faces but rather with the beliefs and intentions of the coercer. Two upshots emerge from that account. The first is that legal directives are not necessarily coercive. The second is that the conditions which render coercion pro tanto wrongful also render the state’s claim to practical authority wrongful. However, whereas coercion is justifiable by an appeal to reasons that defeat its pro tanto wrongfulness, the philosophical anarchist shows that the state’s claim to practical authority is not so justifiable. Therefore, the state’s claim to practical authority is decisively wrongful.
Supervisor: Stears, Marc Sponsor: Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethics and philosophy of law ; Legal philosophy ; Philosophy of law ; philosophical anarchism ; authority ; legitimacy