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.