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The content-independence of political obligation: what it is and how to test it

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-157
Number of pages23
JournalLEGAL THEORY
Volume24
Issue number2
DOIs
Published16 Aug 2018

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Abstract

One of the distinctive features of the obligation to obey the law is its content-independence. We ought to do what the law commands because the law commands it, and not because of the law?s content--i.e., the independent merits of the actions it prescribes. Despite its popularity, the notion of content-independence is marked by ambiguity. In this paper, I first clarify what content-independence is. I then develop a simple test--the ?content-independence test?--that allows us to establish whether any candidate justification of the obligation to obey the law delivers genuine content-independence. I apply this test to prominent such justifications and conclude that several of them, surprisingly, fail it.

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