JSI Series: Obedience to Law: Reasons, Intentions, and Doing the Right Thing

1 November 2012

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What is it to obey the law? Michael Sevel begins to develop an answer to this neglected question. It has long been debated whether there is a general duty to obey the law, though little attention has been given to what that duty is a duty to do. At the same time, there is a large and growing literature that assumes that a person is sometimes justified in engaging in civil disobedience, though little attention has been given to what disobedience is. The prevailing view among legal theorists, more often assumed than argued for, is that obedience consists in acting for a certain sort of reason - for the reason that an authority requires that one so act. That view has recently come in for criticism, but Sevel thinks both the view and the criticisms are misguided. Obedience to law (or to any other putative practical authority, e.g., a corporate manager, parent, religious leader, and so on) requires acting with a certain sort of knowledge of the action one is required to do, as specified by the authority, regardless of one's reasons for doing it. This view makes salient the fact that authorities, whether or not they create reasons for action, nonetheless specify (and sometimes create) actions for their subjects to do, and further require that those actions, and not others, are to be done. Seeing the matter this way helps us avoid certain philosophical puzzles about how authorities can ever make a difference in the thought and action of their subjects.

About the speaker
Michael Sevel joined Sydney Law School in 2012 as Lecturer in Jurisprudence. Previously he was Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Miami School of Law (2011-12), where he taught jurisprudence, torts, and admiralty law, and Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Law of the European University Institute (2010-11). He received a J.D. with honours and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin, in 2008 and 2010, respectively. His research interests include jurisprudence, the rule of law, and maritime law.

Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this seminar is equal to 2 MCLE/CPD units.

This event is hosted by The Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence

Time: 6-8pm

Location: Law Lounge, Level 1, Sydney Law School, Building F10, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

Cost: Free, however registration is essential

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 0733066d313f5c1419322f2410171c3f5205130836494a4d