Full text
Brownlee, Kimberley. Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience
2012, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Added by: Carl Fox
Publisher’s Note:

This book shows that civil disobedience is more defensible than private conscientious objection. Part I distinguishes conviction from conscience, shedding light on the former as something non-evasive and communicative, and on the latter as something much richer, namely, genuine moral responsiveness. Each of these concepts informs a distinct argument for civil disobedience. 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.

Comment: An original approach to the morality of civil disobedience and the question of what protections should be enshrined in law for adherence to the dictates of one's conscience. Particularly interesting because the author argues that a stronger case can be made for permitting and protecting public civil disobedience than can be made for private conscientious objection. This text would be useful in a variety of teaching contexts. For example, a high-level undergraduate or master's level course on activism and resistance might utilise Part I to explore the specifically moral arguments defending civil disobedience, while philosophy of law courses might focus on the legal arguments in Part II. For a reading group or lower-level undergraduate courses, the introduction defines basic terms and offers a more entry-level discussion of the traditional liberal view of civil disobedience.

Export citation in BibTeX format
Export text citation
View this text on PhilPapers
Export citation in Reference Manager format
Export citation in EndNote format
Export citation in Zotero format
Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share by Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *