The moral magic of consent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We regularly wield powers that, upon close scrutiny, appear remarkably magical. By sheer exercise of will, we bring into existence things that have never existed before. With but a nod, we effect the disappearance of things that have long served as barriers to the actions of others. And, by mere resolve, we generate things that pose significant obstacles to others’ exercise of liberty. What is the nature of these things that we create and destroy by our mere decision to do so? The answer: the rights and obligations of others. And by what seemingly magical means do we alter these rights and obligations? By making promises and issuing or revoking consent When we make promises, we generate obligations for ourselves, and when we give consent, we create rights for others. Since the rights and obligations that are affected by means of promising and consenting largely define the boundaries of permissible action, our exercise of these seemingly magical powers can significantly affect the lives and liberties of others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-146
Number of pages26
JournalLegal Theory
Volume2
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Law

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