• Title: Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation
  • Released: 2008-02-25
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 276
From Content: "I have entitled the subject of the course 'political obligation.' I meanthat term to include both the obligation of the subject towards the sovereign, of the citizen towards the state, and the obligations of individuals to each other as enforced by a political superior. My purpose is to consider the moral function or object served by law, or by the system of rights and obligations which the state enforces, and in so doing to discover the true ground or justification for obedience to law. My plan will be (1) to state in outline what I consider the true function of law to be, which is at the same time the true ground of our moral duty to obey it (moral duty I always distinguish from legal obligation); to examine the chief doctrines of political obligation that have been current in modern Europe, and by criticising them to bring out more clearly the main points of the truer doctrine; to consider in detail the chief rights and obligations enforced in civilised states, inquiring what is their justification, and what is the ground for respecting them, on the principle stated. 2. In previous lectures I have explained what I understand moralgoodness to be, and how it is possible that there should be such a thing; in other words, what are the conditions on the part of reason and will which are implied in our being able to conceive moral goodness as an object to be aimed at, and to give some partial reality to the conception. I shall not go over the ground already traversed, but start from the point at which we there arrived. The highest moral goodness we found was an attribute of character so far as it issued in acts done for the sake of their goodness, not for the sake of any pleasure or any satisfaction of desire which they bring to the agent. But it is impossible that an action should be done for the sake of its goodness, unless it has been previously contemplated as good for.6 some other reason than that which consists in its being done for the sake of its goodness. It must have been done, or conceived as possible to be done, and have been accounted good, irrespectively of its being done from this which we ultimately come to regard as the highest motive. In other words, a prior morality, founded upon interests which are other than the pure interest in being good, and governed by rules of conduct relative to a standard of goodness other than that which makes it depend on this interest, is the condition of there coming to be the morality of a character governed by interest in an ideal of goodness. Otherwise this ideal would be an empty one; it would be impossible to say what the good actions were, that were to be done for the sake of their goodness; and the interest in it impossible, since it would be an interest without an object."

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