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A Matter of DisputeMorality, Democracy, and Law$
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Christopher J. Peters

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195387223

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195387223.001.0001

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The problem of law’s authority

The problem of law’s authority

(p.33) 2. The problem of law’s authority
A Matter of Dispute

Christopher J. Peters (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores some prominent strategies for resolving the problem of legal authority. It first defines the scope of the inquiry: A plausible account of legal authority must provide content-independent reasons to obey the law, but those reasons need not support an absolute duty of obedience. The chapter then canvasses two popular attempts to justify legal authority: epistemic-guidance accounts, which trace law's authority to its superior capacity to identify morally correct action; and consensualist accounts, which trace authority to actual or constructive acts of consent. The chapter argues that each of these approaches is inadequate to justify general legal authority. It then introduces an alternative dispute-resolution account, rooted in Hobbes, by which legal authority stems from the imperative to avoid or resolve costly conflict. Before elucidating that account in subsequent chapters, the chapter assesses a fourth type of strategy, one based on the value of coordination, and suggests that it is essentially a variant of a dispute-resolution account.

Keywords:   legal authority, content-independent reasons, epistemic guidance, consent, constructive consent, dispute resolution, Thomas Hobbes, coordination

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