In his most recent book on the moral duty to obey the law, A. John Simmons considers and rejects a number of natural duty approaches to justifying political authority. Among the targets of Simmons’ criticism is the account defended by the book’s co-author, Christopher Heath Wellman. In this essay, I evaluate the force of Simmons’ objections to Wellman’s account of political obligation. As will become clear below, I think Wellman’s defense of the duty to obey the law defective in certain ways—but not in all of the ways that Simmons argues it is. By rebutting some of Simmons’ criticisms and identifying the limits of others, I aim not only to indicate one direction in which a renewed defense of natural duty approaches to political obligation might proceed, but also to encourage the pursuit of such a philosophical project.
Copyright © 2007, American Philosophical Association. This article first appeared in APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Law: 7:1 (2007), 9-14.
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Lefkowitz, David. "Simmons’ Critique of Natural Duty Approaches to the Duty to Obey the Law." APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Law 7, no. 1 (Fall 2007): 9-14.