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Stark, Cynthia A.. Hypothetical Consent and Justification
2000, Journal of Philosophy 97 (6): 313-334.
Added by: Carl Fox
Introduction: The social-contract tradition in moral and political thought can be loosely characterized as an approach to justification based on the idea of rational agreement. This tradition contains a variety of theories that are put to a number of uses. My exclusive focus here will be contract views that rely upon hypothetical, as opposed to actual, consent. My main objective is to defend hypothetical-consent theories against what I call the standard indictment: the claim that hypothetical consent cannot give rise to obligation. I begin by explaining the standard indictment in more detail; next, I argue that the standard indictment does not apply to moral, as contrasted with, political contractarianism; finally, I argue that, on a certain understanding of the relation between political legitimacy and political obligation, the standard indictment does not count against political contractarianism.

Comment: Defends the significance of hypothetical consent as the standard of justification appropriate for establishing moral obligation in a broadly constructivist view. Very useful as specialised or further reading on moral and political obligation.

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