Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience

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OUP Oxford, Oct 18, 2012 - Law - 280 pages
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The book shows that civil disobedience is generally more defensible than private conscientious objection. Part I explores the morality of conviction and conscience. Each of these concepts informs a distinct argument for civil disobedience. The conviction argument begins with the communicative principle of conscientiousness (CPC). According to the CPC, having a conscientious moral conviction means not just acting consistently with our beliefs and judging ourselves and others by a common moral standard. It also means not seeking to evade the consequences of our beliefs and being willing to communicate them to others. The conviction argument shows that, as a constrained, communicative practice, civil disobedience has a better claim than private objection does to the protections that liberal societies give to conscientious dissent. This view reverses the standard liberal picture which sees private 'conscientious' objection as a modest act of personal belief and civil disobedience as a strategic, undemocratic act whose costs are only sometimes worth bearing. The conscience argument is narrower and shows that genuinely morally responsive civil disobedience honours the best of our moral responsibilities and is protected by a duty-based moral right of conscience. Part II translates the conviction argument and conscience argument into two legal defences. The first is a demands-of-conviction defence. The second is a necessity defence. Both of these defences apply more readily to civil disobedience than to private disobedience. Part II also examines lawful punishment, showing that, even when punishment is justifiable, civil disobedients have a moral right not to be punished. Oxford Legal Philosophy publishes the best new work in philosophically-oriented legal theory. It commissions and solicits monographs in all branches of the subject, including works on philosophical issues in all areas of public and private law, and in the national, transnational, and international realms; studies of the nature of law, legal institutions, and legal reasoning; treatments of problems in political morality as they bear on law; and explorations in the nature and development of legal philosophy itself. The series represents diverse traditions of thought but always with an emphasis on rigour and originality. It sets the standard in contemporary jurisprudence.

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About the author (2012)

Kimberley Brownlee is an Associate Professor of Legal and Moral Philosophy at the University of Warwick. Prior to her appointment at Warwick, she was a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester. Her work focuses on civil disobedience, conscience, ideals, virtue, practical reason, philosophy of punishment, and human rights. She has held an HLA Hart Visiting Research Fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Ethics, Law, and Philosophy; a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at Vanderbilt University; and a Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of St Andrews Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs. She is the Honorary Secretary of the Society for Applied Philosophy and a member of the Review Board for the International Encyclopedia of Ethics.

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