Legal Studies and Business Ethics Papers

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Book Chapter

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Philosophical Foundations of the Nature of Law

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A long tradition in political and legal philosophy regards coercion as central to the very idea of law. Some historical figures, such as Hobbes, Locke, and Austin took the position that there can be no law without a coercive sanction. Many philosophers of law, most famously H.L.A. Hart, have called this view into question.1 Nonetheless, many political and legal philosophers continue to believe that law is necessarily connected with coercion in a subtler way. Whenever government is entitled to make a law that imposes a direct requirement on conduct, it is entitled to use coercion to enforce this requirment. Some endorse this position explicitly.2 Others commit themselves to it when they argue against certain kinds of laws or legal arrangements by claiming that coercive enforcement of those laws would be law only if it has some sort of justification for enforcing law coercively. The view that the entitlement to make law necessarily comes with an entitlement to coerce is challenged rarely, if ever. Nonetheless, this view is mistaken.

Copyright/Permission Statement

p. 183-206, Philosophical Foundations of the Nature of Law edited by Waluchow, W. & Sciaraffa, S., 2013, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press:


assurance, coercion, disagreement, enforcement, free-riding, law



Date Posted: 28 June 2018