Disobedience as Such

Vincent Chiao, Alon Harel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Legal philosophers often ask whether a person has a reason to obey the law simply because it is the law. We ask the contrary question: does a person have a reason to disobey the law simply because it is the law? Many philosophers who have considered the question of disobedience have focused on injustice; others have defended disobedience on libertarian or anarchist grounds. In contrast, we argue that there is a content-independent reason to disobey the law even when it is not unjust, illegitimate, or otherwise undesirable. Legal philosophers generally agree that law claims peremptory authority, but they also generally agree that any duty to obey the law is substantially more limited. We argue that insofar as the law makes inflated claims to authority, it generates a content-independent reason to disobey. This anti-authoritarian principle is grounded in the virtue of clearly communicating one’s political commitments to others within a democratic society. By disobeying, one communicates one’s conviction that the law makes inflated claims to authority. We show how our account of disobedience as such is distinct from more familiar theories of anarchism and civil disobedience and argue that it is applicable whether one lives under conditions of justice or injustice.

Original languageAmerican English
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Civil disobedience
  • anarchism
  • authority of law
  • normativity of law
  • obligation to obey the law

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


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