The natural law concept existed long before Locke as a way of expressing the idea that there were certain moral truths that applied to all people, regardless of the particular place where they lived or the agreements they had made. The most important early contrast was between laws that were by nature, and thus generally applicable, and those that were conventional and operated only in those places where the particular convention had been established. This distinction is sometimes formulated as the difference between natural law and positive law. Natural law is also distinct from divine law in that the latter, in the Christian tradition, normally referred to those laws that God had directly revealed through prophets and other inspired writers.
The Problem of Political Obligation When you have an obligation to do something, that obligation is not an absolute moral claim on your actions. If you have an obligation or duty to do something, that is a very good reason for acting in a particular way, but not a conclusive reason for doing so.
I now have an obligation to go to lunch at the agreed upon time and location. But if on my way to lunch I come across a child drowning in a pond, my obligation does not mean that I ought to let the child die and continue to lunch.
Clearly, other moral considerations dominate the obligation to meet for lunch. What this means is that even if it can be established that political obligations exist and bind us to our governments, that does not mean that we are morally required to obey the government in all cases.
It would provide a very strong prima facie reason to do so — but if obeying the law meant that some significantly greater harm would occur, the morally correct action is to disobey.
This is an important bound to what I am attempting to prove in this article: An obligation is a moral requirement satisfying the following conditions: An obligation is a requirement generated by the performance of some voluntary act or omission.
This is contrasted with duties, which can exist without performing some special action.
An obligation is owed by a specific person to a specific person or persons. Duties, by contrast, are owed by all people to everyone else. Every obligation that is generated establishes a corresponding right that is generated at the same time.
It is not the nature of the required act that generates the obligation, but rather the nature of the relationship between the obligor and the obligee. Just because an act is moral or praiseworthy does not make the act obligatory.
Positional duties of this sort do not have moral weight. To say that someone has a positional duty is to say that, because of some position that the agent is in, the agent is required to do something specified by that position. But this says nothing about the nature of that position, which could be a Nazi guard who has a positional duty to aid in the extermination of Jews.
If a positional duty is in fact morally binding, it is because of some other grounds for morality that is not related to the position.
Therefore, we do not have a duty to obey the government simply in virtue of the fact that we are citizens of that government; something else must explain this duty.
Just because the legal obligation of a Nazi guard is to help exterminate Jews, this does not make murdering Jews morally justified.The term political obligation generally means a moral requirement to obey the laws of one’s country.
Such a requirement must encompass more than self-interested or prudential considerations, especially concern that one will be punished for violations. obligation and state legitimacy—despite the theory’s current unpopu- larity—and I will argue that familiar contemporary objections to actual consent theories of political obligation and legitimacy are misguided.
Consent Theory of Political Obligation In both the history of political theory and popular consciousness, the idea that political obliga-tions rest on consent has played a dominant role. 4. Consent, Political Obligation, and the Ends of Government.
The most direct reading of Locke’s political philosophy finds the concept of consent playing a central role. His analysis begins with individuals in a state of nature where they are not subject to a common legitimate authority with the power to legislate or adjudicate disputes.
Consent, Obligation, and the Social Contract: John Locke John Locke () Major English philosopher of the early Natural Law & Moral Theory The Emergence of Political Obligation So, for Locke (in contrast to Hobbes and Filmer), there is.
Remember: an act of consent must be a deliberate undertaking, otherwise any benefits that consent theory has for political obligations no longer exist. People like Locke would argue that things like using public roads or voting, which imply consent, can be grounds for political obligations.