The Normative Force of Consent

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This essay taxonomizes and examines eight possible accounts of the normative force of consent. Two of these construe consent as a source of liberty-limiting constraints upon the later actions of the person who gives consent. On these accounts, consent functions to foreclose the opportunity for later complaint about actions which may, nevertheless, remain serious wrongs. Six of the accounts I describe, however, characterize consent as a source of liberty-enhancing permissions that eliminate otherwise existing obligations on the part of those to whom consent is given. On these accounts, consent is a moral-game changer. While it may not do all the work that is required to make others’ actions moral, it eliminates any claim that such actions are wrongs to the person who gives consent. As such, these liberty-enhancing accounts are true to the notion that consent is morally magical—that it has the ability to create and destroy obligations in the blink of an eye, and thus constitutes a normative power that allows agents to change their moral landscape, to alter others’ moral legacies, and to author moral laws by will alone.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Consent
EditorsPeter Schaber
PublisherRoutledge Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781351028257
ISBN (Print)9781351028264, 9780367734336
StatePublished - May 22 2018


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