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Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy Volume 5$
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David Sobel, Peter Vallentyne, and Steven Wall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198841425

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198841425.001.0001

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Justifying Uncivil Disobedience

Justifying Uncivil Disobedience

(p.90) 4 Justifying Uncivil Disobedience
Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy Volume 5

Ten-Herng Lai

Oxford University Press

A prominent way of justifying civil disobedience is to postulate a pro tanto duty to obey the law and to argue that the considerations that ground this duty sometimes justify forms of civil disobedience. However, this view entails that certain kinds of uncivil disobedience are also justified. Thus, either a) civil disobedience is never justified or b) uncivil disobedience is sometimes justified. Since a) is implausible, we should accept b). I respond to the objection that this ignores the fact that civil disobedience enjoys a special normative status on account of instantiating certain special features: nonviolence, publicity, the acceptance of legal consequences, and conscientiousness. I then show that my view is superior to two rivals: the view that we should expand the notion of civility and that civil disobedience, expansively construed, is uniquely appropriate; and the view that uncivil disobedience is justifiable in but only in unfavorable conditions.

Keywords:   duty to obey the law, civil disobedience, uncivil disobedience, violence, nonviolence

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