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Alexander, Larry, Hurd, Heidi, Westen, Peter. Consent Does Not Require Communication: A Reply to Dougherty
2016, Law and Philosophy. 35: 655-660.
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Added by: Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore
Abstract: Tom Dougherty argues that consenting, like promising, requires both an appropriate mental attitude and a communication of that attitude.Thus, just as a promise is not a promise unless it is communicated to the promisee, consent is not consent unless it is communicated to the relevant party or parties. And those like us, who believe consent is just the attitude, and that it can exist without its being communicated, are in error. Or so Dougherty argues. We, however, are unpersuaded. We believe Dougherty is right about promises, but wrong about consent. Although each of us gives a slightly different account of the attitude that constitutes consent, we all agree that consent is constituted by that attitude and need not be communicated in order to alter the morality of another’s conduct.

Comment (from this Blueprint): The authors argue that consent is an attitude, rather than an act of communication. They give two examples to support this view where the communication of consent doesn’t occur or goes wrong somehow, but nonetheless (they claim) it is intuitively a consensual interaction.

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Hurd, Heidi. The Moral Magic of Consent
1996, Legal Theory 2(2): 121-146.
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Added by: Carl Fox
Abstract: We regularly wield powers that, upon close scrutiny, appear remarkably magical. By sheer exercise of will, we bring into existence things that have never existed before. With but a nod, we effect the disappearance of things that have long served as barriers to the actions of others. And, by mere resolve, we generate things that pose significant obstacles to others' exercise of liberty. What is the nature of these things that we create and destroy by our mere decision to do so? The answer: the rights and obligations of others. And by what seemingly magical means do we alter these rights and obligations? By making promises and issuing or revoking consent When we make promises, we generate obligations for ourselves, and when we give consent, we create rights for others. Since the rights and obligations that are affected by means of promising and consenting largely define the boundaries of permissible action, our exercise of these seemingly magical powers can significantly affect the lives and liberties of others

Comment: Good introduction to the topic of consent as it makes clear both how strange it is as a power and how pervasive it is in our moral practices. Goes on to provide an interesting argument for consent as a subjective mental state and offers an account of what that might be. Could support a lecture or seminar on consent, or would make good further reading if the topic is only touched on briefly.

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