The Concept of Legitimacy

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 52 (4):381-395 (2022)
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I argue that legitimacy discourses serve a gatekeeping function. They give practitioners telic standards for riding herd on social practices, ensuring that minimally acceptable versions of the practice are implemented. Such a function is a necessary part of implementing formalized social practices, especially including law. This gatekeeping account shows that political philosophers have misunderstood legitimacy; it is not secondary to justice and only necessary because we cannot agree about justice. Instead, it is a necessary feature of actual human social practices, which must be implemented via practitioners' discretion in changing contexts.

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N. P. Adams
University of Virginia


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